Man Crush for MCM (Mid-Century Modernism)

April 14, 2017

“I keep going to a lot of places and ending up somewhere I’ve already been.”   – Don Draper, Mad Men

I’ve always had a love for traveling and experiencing architecture and design from various regions. When I had a last minute opportunity to get away for a weekend in Palm Springs during its famed Modernism Week, I jumped on it. Palm Springs is well known for having the country’s largest concentration of Mid-Century Modern architecture, the majority constructed during the late 1940s through the 1960s. Over the past decade, the annual event has drawn renowned architects, interior designers, historians, and ‘mod’ enthusiasts to the Southern California desert to celebrate and preserve amazing works of Mid-Century Modernism.

Because it was my first time at Modernism Week, I found it quite overwhelming and difficult to narrow down which events and tours to attend. From bike tours of noteworthy neighborhoods, film screenings, and mid-century furniture shows, to tours of John Lautner and Albert Frey homes and cocktail parties in the Frank Sinatra Twin Palms Estate, I tried to see as much as one reasonably could in two days.

Eichler-Event

Eichler home tour and panel discussion held in the backyard

Author Sam Lubell and photographer Darren Bradley presented their new Phaidon book, Mid-Century Modern Architecture Travel Guide: West Coast USA, at the Ace Hotel & Swim Club

Author Sam Lubell and photographer Darren Bradley presented their new Phaidon book, Mid-Century Modern Architecture Travel Guide: West Coast USA, at the Ace Hotel & Swim Club

With each building I toured, I found myself falling more and more in love. I admired the way architect E. Stewart Williams’s Edris House elegantly mirrored the natural rock formations surrounding it.

One of architect-builder E. Stewart Williams’s most famous houses, the Edris House was completed in 1954 and overlooks the City of Palm Springs from the hillside

One of architect-builder E. Stewart Williams’s most famous houses, the Edris House was completed in 1954 and overlooks the city of Palm Springs from the hillside

I was in awe of the wood posts and beams that were carried through the Eichler home I toured, as well as the glass walls and doors designed to seamlessly connect indoor and outdoor spaces.  It was amazing to stand in the centralized courtyard and see through the living space to the picturesque backyard pool.

The beautiful interior courtyard of the Eichler home I toured. It could be yours for only $1.2 million!

The beautiful interior courtyard of the Eichler home I toured.  It could be yours for only $1.2 million!

In addition to the homes in Palm Springs, local restaurants, businesses, and resorts all seemed to embody the same desert Modernist aesthetic. It’s hard to explain what features of the Mid-Century Modern buildings made me suddenly turn into a “heart eyes” emoji. Was it the floor-to-ceiling expanses of glass that perfectly captured a stunning view? Or the wood and steel structural elements that were so proudly expressed? Or perhaps the bright colors found on a door, patterned masonry block, or a piece of furniture? Whatever it was, the sense of nostalgia transported me back to that era and way of living. I began to envision myself as Don Draper from Mad Men, lounging in the house with a drink in hand.

Interior-Furniture

Mid-Mod living room in a 1960 Jack Meiselman home

The patterned and colorful front of the Meiselman home, which the homeowners nicknamed Meiselmania

The patterned and colorful front of the Meiselman home, which the homeowners nicknamed “Meiselmania”

I left my weekend in Palm Springs with a new appreciation of Mid-Century Modern design. I realized that Modernism was not just an architectural or furniture style, but an entire movement; one that was timeless and enduring and influenced lifestyle and culture.

Working at Dreyfuss + Blackford Architecture, I was somewhat familiar with Modernist design. The firm has a long-standing history of creating notable Modernist structures. Although I was born much later than the ‘50s or ‘60s, my latest travel experiences made me feel like I had lived those eras. As a result, I found a greater connection to D+B’s roots and a newfound respect for its past projects.

Dreyfuss & Blackford designed the Marty Gardens florist shop on Riverside Boulevard in Sacramento, 1955 // Photo by: Dreyfuss & Blackford

Dreyfuss & Blackford designed the Marty Gardens florist shop on Riverside Boulevard in Sacramento, 1955 // Photo: Dreyfuss + Blackford

Nut-Tree

Al Dreyfuss and Len Blackford presenting a model of the Nut Tree complex in Vacaville // Photo by: Vacaville Museum

 All other photos by Jeffrey Yip