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  • Writer's pictureErica Barnett

Architect: Donald Wexler

Donald Wexler was born in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, in 1926 and raised in Minneapolis, Minnesota. After serving in the Navy during World War II, he enrolled at the University of Minnesota, but he wasn’t sure about a major. He eventually graduated from the University of Minnesota with a bachelors in Architecture in 1950 and worked for Richard Neutra.

In 1952, he moved to Palm Springs and practiced there for almost six decades, developing an architecture that is sensitive to the extremes of the desert climate. His houses' framing, roofs and exterior siding were typically steel, with drywall interior siding. While he chose to keep his office small and limited his practice to the desert community, Wexler produced a body of work that included houses, schools, hotels, banks and even airports.

During the 1950s and 60s, Wexler pioneered commercial and residential construction using steel and prefabrication. He applied his groundbreaking techniques and unique style to projects for clients such as Dinah Shore, Frank Sinatra, the Alexander Construction Company and Walt Disney World Resort. Wexler’s designs for public buildings in the Coachella Valley of California, including the dramatic Palm Springs Airport, served as both soaring and practical models for other municipalities to copy.

Wexler retired in 2002. He was named a fellow of the American Institute of Architects in 2004, and in 2009 he was the subject of a documentary titled Journeyman Architect: The Life and Work of Donald Wexler. In 2011 the Palm Springs Art Museum recognized his work with a retrospective exhibition, “Steel and Shade: The Architecture of Donald Wexler.”

Wexler died at the age of 89 in his Palm Desert home due to illness. Today Donald Wexler’s work has gained new appreciation worldwide and provides inspiration for a new generation of architects.


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