You are currently browsing the tag archive for the ‘architecture’ tag.
MY WHIRLWIND TRIP TO PALM SPRINGS on assignment for Endless Vacation magazine took place the week before last, though it seems forever ago. I’ve been bouncing around since — from Long Island, where I packed up two-thirds of my furnishings and turned my cottage in Springs over to renters for at least the next year (and am inching forward on the purchase of another property), and my apartment in Brooklyn, where I’m coming to terms again with life in two rooms. The warm sun and crystalline air of southern Cali are a distant memory, but I feel compelled to post more photos before I resume blogging about life on the East Coast.
I certainly enjoyed waking up each morning to the view, above, from the Hideaway, a low-key inn in a 1947 compound formerly known as the Town & Desert Hotel
You see, professional travel journalist here left an important gold mesh bag on her dining table when she departed at 5AM for LaGuardia Airport [slaps self upside the head]. In the bag: my camera battery and charger and the cord that enables me to download photos to my laptop. Once again, it was iPhone to the rescue; at least I was able to do one blog post from there, though the photos hardly did the place justice. I did have the camera itself with me, and I used it, sparingly, to the full extent of its battery power, capturing some of Palm Springs’ exceptional mid-20th-century architecture and the vintage-inspired hotels and design shops that have blossomed around them.
Herewith, a few more images from the trip.
Below, houses in the Las Palmas neighborhood by the enormously influential developer Robert Alexander.
Below, three of seven surviving all-steel houses by architect Donald Wexler, c. 1962
Below, Hedge, a shop in nearby Cathedral City whose owners can do no wrong as far as I’m concerned. Their taste in mid-century art and design is impeccable.
A grouping of Danish pottery at JPDenmark, below, which shares strip-mall space with Hedge and several multi-dealer vintage modern shops
At the trendy Ace Hotel, below, scooters at the ready
Below, Norma’s, a popular brunch spot at the Parker and public spaces decorated by the inimitable Jonathan Adler
The discreet 9-room Hideaway, my Palm Springs home for three nights
GOOD MORNING from Palm Springs, California, where I am, instead of the woman taking yard waste to the dump or running to catch the Flatbush Avenue bus, a minor celebrity. It’s because of a book I wrote in the 1980s, Mid-Century Modern: Furniture of the 1950s, that launched many collecting and merchandising careers and helped spawn a huge revival of interest in the design of the period that continues to this day.
Guest lounge at the Hideaway, looking very much as it did in the 1950s
Palm Springs was an epicenter of adventurous custom architecture in the post-WWII years, and the town’s stock of homes by architects like William Cody, Albert Frey, William Krisel, Donald Wexler, and E. Stewart Williams has become one of the area’s main draws. I’m here to write about it for Endless Vacation magazine.
My room at the Hideaway, known as Ray’s Retreat (Ray Eames, I presume)
I’m comfortably ensconced at the discreet and well-named Hideaway (there’s no sign; I was told to look for three tall skinny palm trees rising out of a thick hedge) — a low-slung 1947 mini-resort by architect Herbert W. Burns, whose rooms, arrayed around a pool, feature authentic mid-century decor and Palm Springs’ ever-present, stunning mountain backdrop.
Bill Manion, manager of the Hideaway at its sister property, Orbit In
A real California breakfast: broccoli rabe frittata and cheddar hash browns at Cheeky’s
Palm Springs is a cohesive collection of mid-20th century residential and commercial architecture, sprinkled with a few remaining examples of the earlier Spanish Colonial Revival style that pre-dated it. Yesterday I took a comprehensive 3-1/2-hour tour with architectural historian Robert Imber of Palm Springs Modern Tours, who stuffed our heads with information and images as we drove through neighborhoods like Las Palmas, The Mesa, Little Tuscany, and Indian Canyons. He filled us in on where real celebrities, including Sinatra, Elvis, Cary Grant, Judy Garland, Kate and Spencer, and on and on and on, owned homes or spent time, opening our eyes to unusual roof lines, innovative layouts, modern materials, and desert landscaping.
Tramway Gas Station (now Palm Springs Visitors Center), 1965, Albert Frey and Robson Chambers
Richard Neutra’s 1946 desert house for the Kaufmanns, also owners of Frank Lloyd Wright’s Fallingwater
William Krisel’s 1962 House of Tomorrow designed for Palm Springs’ most influential developer, Robert Alexander; also known as Elvis and Priscilla Presley’s honeymoon cottage (they lived here for about a year as newlyweds)
I’m also checking out vintage modern shopping opportunities for the magazine at numerous stores whose inventory ranges from Good Design to unabashed kitsch.
Modern Way, where designer names abound
Above, Dazzles, where I relived my life in collecting, from rattan furniture to bottlecap figures to Lucite grapes (that’s Mike, the proprietor — the store has been here 14 years after 20 in L.A.)
Now, if you’ll excuse me, it’s time for my morning swim…
I’M IN VALENCIA, SPAIN, city of parks and paella, of rich and tangled history, with many outstanding architectural remnants thereof.
Valencia has 300 days of sunshine a year. Yesterday was not one of them. But gray though it was, it suited a walk from our hotel, the SH Valencia Palace, for some preliminary exploration.
My small group of travel journalists is here during a high point in Valencia’s calendar: the five-day Fallas festival, Europe’s largest street party. Our guide, Vito, told us it dates back to medieval times, when carpenters would gather and burn wood scraps in honor of St. Joseph at the end of the winter season. The piles became bigger and more elaborate over the centuries, morphing eventually into sculptural creations.
These days, 400 organizations spend some 10 million euros creating papier mache and polystyrene sculptures with the kitschy appeal of Disney animation figures, some fifty feet tall, and some satirical (there’s one of Barack Obama I have yet to see).
These ‘fallas,’ as the sculptures are called, will be burned in a culminating event this weekend; meanwhile, marching bands, costume parades, and fireworks are already in full swing, and the city is packed with visitors.
I am here primarily to see the architecture, and I’m not disappointed. Valencia tore down its old city walls in the 1860s and expanded beyond them along broad boulevards. Elegant apartment buildings went up in the city’s own brand of early modernism — somewhere between Nouveau and Deco, sometimes with a bit of baroque thrown in.
The area called Ciutat Vella, or Old City, is studded with monuments of all periods, including the Silk Exchange, or La Lonja, below, a late 15th century Gothic hall where merchants met and traded, with twisting columns on the interior and gargoyles along the roofline. Recently restored, it’s a UNESCO World Heritage site, and it’s spectacular.
Two amazing early 20th century market halls, made of iron and decorated with mosaics in the city’s characteristic ‘Modernismo’ style, bracket the Old City area — one still used for produce and foodstuffs, the other now housing craft stalls.
Mercado Central, one of Europe’s largest ongoing daily food markets, above
Mercado de Colon and details, above
We also peeked into the city’s cathedral which has a Gothic dome, Romanesque door, and ornate Renaissance chapels inside.
It’s a lot to take in, especially with the distractions of Fallas, and there’s plenty more to come.
I’M GOING TO SPAIN THIS EVENING, so for the next six days, expect to see pictures of High Gothic, Baroque, Moorish, and ultra-futuristic architecture, rather than brownstones.
It’s a press trip to Valencia, Spain’s third-largest city, where I’ve never been, and while I don’t feel anything but stressed at the moment, I know I’m going to be wildly excited when I get there. With all I had to do in the run-up to this trip, I completely forgot to move my car this morning. Anyone who knows about New York City’s draconian alternate-side parking regulations will understand how freaked I was when I finally remembered, two hours after the fact, that my car was on the wrong side on the wrong day. I ran to see if it had been towed or ticketed, and amazingly, it was neither. Mayor Bloomberg’s minions falling down on the job? It would have been a massive inconvenience to have to go to the tow pound this afternoon instead of the airport.
This visit to one of Spain’s greenest and liveliest cities will be a fine way to pass the last week of winter. I’ll be blogging daily from there, and I hope you’ll come along for the vicarious ride.
You can also go here to see my collection of posts from my time in Andalusia last winter.
NO ONE COULD ACCUSE THESE HOUSES of being cookie-cutter. While cruising the East Hampton listings in the $600-800,000 range, these two, er, unusual houses came up. They’re not entirely out of context. The Hamptons have long been known for outrageous beach-house architecture, some of it brilliant.
But I’m not sure what to make of these two. I like their spirit, but they seem to be trying way too hard. Architect-designed during a ’60s-’70s Hamptons building boom, they’re remnants of an age whose architecture is taking an awfully long time to become fashionable again, if ever it will be.
The white cube with giant fisheye, above, was designed by Henri Gueron. It was featured in Architectural Record, and in a book called The Great Houses (McGraw Hill), below. New to market, asking 799K, it’s tiny by today’s inflated standards: 2 beds, 2 baths, 950 square feet on half an acre, with a new pool, below, a fancy Italian kitchen, and a roof deck.
While the white box makes me cringe a little, the winged wood one, below, makes me laugh. Is it a nod in plywood to Saarinen’s TWA terminal or a Palm Springs gas station?
Known as the “Butterfly House,” it dates from 1964. The architect was Henry T. Howard (Google comes up short). Three bedrooms, 2 baths, 1,200 square feet, felicitously located on a wooded corner lot in Springs, not far from Accabonac Harbor and magnificent bay beaches. The interior, below, looks promising, and it was just reduced to 725K.
While I would prefer my next house to be a late 19th century shingled farmhouse with a front porch, as soothing and unchallenging as my beloved Impressionists, I would also kind of enjoy furnishing that crazy cube with classic modern furniture, rya rugs, and a nice, big Jackson Pollock.
The more I look at these two oddities, the better I like them. They’re interesting, and that’s more than can be said for most houses. They’re economically small. They’re secluded. But they’re strange. It will take a very special buyer, now and forever after, which makes these houses a pretty hard sell and a chancy investment. Maybe they’ll be highly prized in 30 years, if they don’t get torn down by then.