When I visited Palm Springs, California, I had no trouble remembering where I was. I had trouble placing when I was.
The sleek aesthetic of the middle 20th century has always struck me as incredibly futuristic, which is what creates that “wobbling in time” feeling — don’t ask me to tell you what year it is when I’m looking at fifty year old building that seems like it belongs to an era that won’t happen for another fifty years.
Adding to this time travel effect were my Palm Springs accommodations. I stayed at the Riviera, which takes its design mission very seriously — there were lots of “oh my” moments, from the lobby’s curved orange wall, lit up, with a floral metal lattice work dwarfing small check-in desks in the lobby, to the swank Rat Pack pool, to the never-ending collision of patterns in the hotel’s labyrinthine hallways — but not so many clues about what year tops the current calendar.
I will now confess that my estimate of fifty years of temporal flux in either direction was no rough estimate. I’m not too proud to say that my earliest impression of Mid Century Modern came from watching The Jetsons, and they “lived” in 2062. Exactly fifty years from 2012.
Anyway, the best way to get to know Palm Spring’s Mid-Century Modern architecture, also known as “desert modernism”, is to head there for Modernism Week, February 16th to the 26th, 2012. There are tours by foot and tours by bus, parties, lectures, films. Check out the full event schedule here. And if you’re heading to Palm Springs another time, be sure to get your mid-century bearings at the Palm Springs Visitors Center, pictured above left, which started its life as a fabulous gas station, constructed in 1965.
Alison J. Stein
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