Mid-century architecture is one of the more memorable styles that developed in the 20th century, and its devotees have kept the style alive, even cultivating a resurgence. Palm Springs' annual Modernism Week (February 16-26, 2017) is coming up fast, and this celebration of one of the cleanest, sleekest styles around is an excellent time to see some of the best examples of mid-century modern architecture in the United States.
Mid-Century Architecture and the Mood of a Nation
Mid-century architecture spanned quite a few years, starting in the 1940s and ending in the late 1960s/early 1970s. But it's the 1950s and early 1960s that come to mind when seeing this style. The United States was experiencing growing prosperity and a strong push to increase its technological side, from manufacturing to medicine to space exploration. This was a time for people to look ahead and finally relax as modern life made living easier. The clean, open, minimalist lines of mid-century, modernist homes were geared toward happy times -- parties or family get-togethers, open space that might have been limited in older family members' youth, and top-of-the-line appliances and gadgets.
Palm Springs became and has remained an excellent example of modernist architecture because the city was, literally, in the right place at the right time. The growing city experienced a boom in the middle of the 20th century as Hollywood stars spent more and more time in the area, either as a vacation spot or as their main city of residence. It was only natural that the homes built then followed the fashion of the time, which led to a large and still thriving mid-century modern scene. While many mid-century modern homes have been remodeled with more contemporary styles in mind, or even just torn down, the homes in Palm Springs have been saved by preservationists who are aware of just how stunning the style is. The city became a mecca for architecture enthusiasts who, in 2006, decided to create Modernism Week as an annual celebration of the style. Palm Springs remains one of the best -- if not the best -- showcase for mid-century modern buildings.
The 2017 Celebration of Modernism
In addition to preview nights and an opening night party, attendees at February's event can take part in a documentary film festival; double-decker bus tours of specific neighborhoods like Palm Canyon Drive; tours of historic houses; tours of landscapes that have been both kept up in modernist style and redone to account for desert climate needs; an electric bike tour; several lectures focusing on specific architects, including William F. Cody, Paul W. Trousdale, George and Robert Alexander, and the influence of the Disney Company on period architecture; and a dedication of a star on the Palm Springs Walk of Stars for architect John Lautner.
Modernism week lasts 11 days, so you have plenty of time to take in all the sights. However, tickets, and lodging, sell out quickly. Make plans now to attend one of the premier architectural celebrations in the country.