It’s already that time again. Hordes of architectural aficionados are descending on Palm Springs for 11 days of talks, tours, and revelry all centered around the unifying theme of modernist design. Yes, Thursday, February 15 kicks off Modernism Week in Palm Springs. Where else can you look at the past and dream of the future all in one thought and under the label of “modern”? Of course, modernism is referencing a broader range; a liberal point in time often represented along the leisurely avenues of Palm Springs by mid-century architecture. This year’s 11-day “week” offers over 350 events open to the general public and brimming with rare opportunities.
Staples of Modernism Week
So what you can expect from Modernism Week 2024? Everything that made this event a staple of the Palm Springs experience for starters. The tours of homes and gardens (and, yes, even vintage trailers), the car show, the talks, the parties… all are back in full effect.
As usual, CAMP (an acronym for Community and Meeting Place) serves as the grounding axis for Modernism Week. Situated in the Palm Canyon Hyatt, CAMP remains your place to regroup, socialize, and maybe even pick up a few suggestions for tours and talks. Some of the expert discussions conveniently take place in CAMP’s Modernism Week Theater, so it’s a great place with which to acquaint yourself.
Arguably the main draw for Modernism Week is the comprehensive tour program. Many of Palm Springs’s most iconic and architecturally significant homes are opening their doors to the public. Whether you go by bicycle, double-decker bus, car, or on your own two feet, you have the opportunity to experience the most interesting examples of mid-century architecture that over 30 Palm Springs neighborhoods have to offer.
Palm Springs Signature Home Tour
If you’re looking to get the most bang for your buck, sign up for the Palm Springs Signature Home Tour running on February 18 and February 25. Consider it a mid-century sampler. Casually interested in modernism? Or an avid fanatic? Either way, this signature tour introduces a variety of stunning properties. After a decade of awakening patrons to the charm of mid-century style, this tour remains a favorite event of Modernist Week regulars and novices alike.
Featured Home Tour 1: Wexler ‘54
A lot of the buzz around 2024’s Modernism Week surrounds the year’s two exclusive Featured Home Tours. Every year, these featured tours grant access to properties with significant mid-century design influence. It’s tough to decide which of this year’s two featured tours we’re anticipating more, but we’ll personally lean toward Wexler ‘54.
Focused on a classic Wexler-Harrison home, the tour examines a painstaking renovation with a mission to return the home to its modernist roots. The current homeowners worked closely with preservation consultant and architect Susan Secoy Jensen, AIA. Short of inventing a time machine, you’re not going to get a better look at meticulous mid-century design. The historic property stands in the charming Deepwell Estates neighborhood where tours will run February 16 through 19 and again February 23 through 25.
Featured Home Tour 2: The Shag House
Not to knock Shag who has been churning out a seemingly inexhaustible supply of mid-century dreams since the ‘90s. The artist is orchestrating the subject of Modernism Week’s second Featured Home Tour, appropriately dubbed The Shag House. Shag was given free rein to renovate a Little Beverly Hills pool palace into his own modernist oasis.
The home was originally built by the Alexander Construction Company in 1958, but Shag has rendered it almost unrecognizable. Shag gives the front façade, entry, and breezeway the lounge treatment culminating in a hefty dose of Shagadelica. This tour also runs February 16 through 19 and again February 23 through 25
Sunnyland Historic House Tour
If you want to see a big property with a small tour group, the Sunnyland Historic House Tour may be your favorite of this year’s Modernism Week events. This was the former estate of noted philanthropist couple Walter and Leonore Annenberg. The 25,000 square foot residence, completed in 1966, was the design of famed architect A. Quincy Jones, not to be confused with legendary record producer Quincy Jones. But the Sunnyland tour is a Thriller nonetheless. Imagine a Mayan temple circa 1960 and you’re on the right path to this mid-century masterpiece.
Guests meet up at the Sunnylands Center & Gardens before taking electric shuttles over to the looming property. Since tour groups are limited to seven, you’d be smart to grab your tickets now (if there are any left). These very limited tours run from February 21 through 25 only.
The House of Tomorrow Tour
Nothing can keep the imminent future at bay; not even Modernism Week. In fact, the event welcomes it with one of the most eagerly anticipated tours of the 2024 program: The House of Tomorrow Tour. Tomorrow’s house has a heck of a past. It’s most popularly recognized as the Honeymoon Hideaway that Elvis and Priscilla Presley shared for about a week in 1967. But what’s a single week in the face of tomorrow?
Another home built by the Alexander Construction Company, this 1960 abode was designed by William Krisel. The innovative architect famously proclaimed “Circles have no edge; you can approach them from anywhere” in reference to his decision to base the home on four connected circular units. The House of Tomorrow Tour highlights the extensive renovations executed to return the home to its original, forward-facing style. Tours run regularly for the full duration of Modernism Week.
Modernism Week Restoration Series: The Sutter House
Our final pick of the standout tours for this year’s Modernism Week focuses on a masterful restoration effort. Modernism Week Restoration Series: The Sutter House introduces a new regular series to the event schedule, and it’s starting on solid footing.
E. Stewart Williams, AIA, designed Palm Springs Historic Site #133, better known as the Sutter House, in 1958. Through modern strides in restoration techniques, this home has been renovated and preserved with furniture and interior design taking us back to the halcyon days of mid-century style. The tour is available for one day only, February 18 (and is likely already sold out).
It’s Not Too Late to Plan Your Modernism Week Itinerary
So, what if you’re late to the party and all of these events are already sold out? There’s still plenty to experience over the 11 days, so just check the official site to see what’s still available. The majority of the events are low cost. Some are even free! If you have even a passing curiosity about mid-century design, then you need to attend at least one Modernism Week. And, to take a page from the modernists’ handbook, there’s no time like the present.