Desert Modern

by Matthew Portch


Gold Mercedes, Palm Springs.jpg


10 May - 8 June 2018

About the Show

Since the 1920’s, visionary modernist architects have designed sleek, modern homes that have embraced the stark desert environment. Inspired by this arid landscape and modern schools like Bauhaus and the International Style, the architects of the 1950s created in Palm Springs what is now the highest concentration of mid-century modern architecture in the world.

At the end of World War II Palm Springs’ population almost tripled, and the city experienced a building boom. By the early 1960’s there was a great concentration of people who had worked hard in the country and wanted a place they could go that would provide them much warmth and an escape from the harsh winters. Most of these structures were second homes and buyers were more willing to let the architects have fun and experiment with something different from their traditional or more conventional permanent homes.

Desert Modernism was a mid-twentieth century approach to architecture that capitalised on the sunny skies and warm climate of southern California. Notable for its use of glass, clean lines, natural and manufactured resources and indoor/outdoor spaces, Desert Modernism evoked a lifestyle of simple elegance and informality. Influenced by the dictates of desert living and the intense climate, the style grew out of the architects and designer’s adaptive use of inventive materials, modern construction techniques and new (post-war) technologies.

Decades after movie stars and producers began relocating to Palm Springs, the modernist style that permeated the area and the desert landscape that inspired artists, architects, and designers alike, is still a booming trend and continues to thrive.



Opening night photos by Will Linstead