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  • Writer's pictureVicky Chang

Famous Architects of Palm Springs

Updated: Nov 27, 2020

Visitors from all over the world come to see the buildings in Palm Springs (both residential and commercial) that have been lovingly restored from the mid-century. Many of the quintessential examples of the finest in mid-century modern architecture were built after WWII. After the war, the population in the desert almost doubled and builders tried to keep up with the increased needs for residential, commercial and civic buildings. During the mid-century, a new group of architects made their unique mark on the community of Palm Springs. Below are a few of the most notable architects of Palm Springs.

1. Albert Frey

Albert Frey was a famous architect who established a style of modern architecture centered around Palm Springs, California that came to be known as “desert modernism.” At the end of World War II Palm Springs’ population almost tripled, and the city experienced a building boom.

Significant buildings by Frey during this period include his private residences, Frey house I and II, the Loewy House, built for industrial designer Raymond Loewy, the Palm Springs City Hall, the Cree House II, North Shore Yacht Club on the northeastern shore of the Salton Sea, the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway Valley Station and the iconic “flying wedge” canopy of the Tramway Gas Station at the foot of the entrance to the tramway on the northern edge of Palm Springs, now used as a visitor's center.

2. David Wexler

In 1952, Wexler, along with Richard Harrison, a colleague from Cody’s firm, set up their own offices as Wexler & Harrison. That partnership dissolved amicably in 1961, and Wexler formed Donald A. Wexler Associates in 1963.

During their partnership, Wexler and Harrison designed many school buildings using new approaches to steel-framed construction. Their Steel Development Homes are some of Wexler’s most significant work. In 1960, the George Alexander Construction Company contracted Wexler to design an innovative neighborhood of all-steel homes at the then northern edge of Palm Springs.

3. John Porter Clark

John Porter Clark came to Palm Springs from Pasadena in 1932. He was sent to establish the local office of the architectural firm of Van Pelt & Lind. Clark is credited with designing the Welwood Murray Memorial Library, the San Jacinto Hotel, the Ludington House in Rancho Mirage and many residential projects in Smoke Tree Ranch.

4. William Cody

William Cody graduated from USC right after the war ended and he came to Palm Springs to design an addition for Nellie Coffman at The Desert Inn. While he was here he was hired to design a new hotel, the Del Marcos Hotel. The Del Marcos was the project that defined his style and established him as an architect of note in the desert. The Southern California Chapter of the American Institute of Architects awarded Cody a “Creative Mention Award” in 1949 for his work on the Del Marcos, citing the project as an example of new resort hotel architecture.

5. Lloyd Wright

The actual trend in this fresh perspective on design is said to have begun in Palm Springs in 1924 when Pearl McCallum commissioned Lloyd Wright, son of Frank Lloyd Wright to design her Oasis Hotel. The structure was built out of concrete blocks using a slip-form technique creating a uniform pattern in the blocks. The main tower section of the hotel is still in downtown Palm Springs, hidden away unnoticed, right on Palm Canyon Drive, awaiting restoration.

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