Let’s travel today to Palm Springs, a treasure trove of mid-century architecture. As development moved down valley, architecture in Palm Springs became frozen in time. Since around 2000, there has been a renewal of interest in architecture and there are now groups who exist to promote it and preserve it. It is one of my favorite places to be and I will write a lot about it.
Donald Wexler is one of the influential architects of mid century architecture. He career was spent primarily in the Desert. He designed homes and public structures in a unique language that was for the Desert and for modern life. It has been said that he has the mind of an engineer with the soul of an artist. We will focus on three projects, the Alexander Steel homes, El Rancho Vista Estates and my favorite, the Dinah Shore home in Las Palmas.
Wexler learned very quickly that wood frame structures are difficult to maintain, when he built his first home. So he experimented with steel framed structures for his later works. The Alexander Construction Company hired Wexler to design these houses for them. Sadly, during this time the cost of steel became to high to pencil out the project and only seven were built.
El Rancho Vista Estates is a neighborhood, developed east of the airport, which is enjoying a renewed interest by people with an interest in preservation. People are purchasing these homes and are restoring them to their original beauty. Features of these Wexler designed homes are classic mid-century architectural elements, including concrete decorative block, clerestory windows to let in the light and walls of glass that brings the outdoors in with the magnificent views of the mountains that we all love about Palm Springs. A classic Wexler design is the butterfly roof, which is seen on some of the homes.
Finally, let’s talk about the Dinah Shore home in Las Palmas. It was designed in 1963 for Dinah Shore. It sits on 1.3 acres and was built as a weekend retreat. I think it is interesting that the front door is set way back from the street, giving the home maximum privacy. I would hope that some mighty fine cocktail parties have been held here! Here is a peak inside.
Donald Wexler’s later years focused on commercial and public works. His artistry can be see at the Palm Springs Airport, the Sinatra Medical Center and the Desert Water agency to name a few. He is a true Desert treasure, who is not about the spotlight but lets his work to speak for himself.