Mod Mecca

Palm Springs makes way for the return of the modernism week this winter

Written by Jenn Thornton

Set to descend on Palm Springs Feb. 11-21, 2016, Modernism Week— a celebration of midcentury modern architecture and design—has always sought to expand horizons. Now, the de facto event for the design-obsessed is expanding its borders to explore new territory. Here, Chairman of the Board Chris Mobley with a sneak peek of Modernism Week 2016.

How did you become involved with Modernism Week?

In 2011, I purchased tickets for several Modernism Week events for the first time and loved it! I couldn’t believe that I was living in such an amazing town, rich with history and great architecture. I immediately contacted Modernism Week organizers and asked how I could get involved. Because of my background in property development and prefab design, they asked if I would help organize Modernism Week’s Prefab Showcase in 2012. It ended up being a very popular and fun event that pulled in 7,000 people in 10 days. Later that year, I was asked to join the board of directors, which was such an honor.

Why is Palm Springs such a rich breeding ground for midcentury modern design?

I would say it is because of its beautiful desert landscape, magical mountain views, amazing weather and close proximity to Los Angeles. In the 1950s and 1960s, it was the hideaway for Hollywood elite. This [added] to its popularity and helped define a specific Palm Springs lifestyle known for its swimming pools, golfing, shopping, relaxed environment, restaurants and nightclubs. It was also home to a collection of modernist architects whose unique style helped define Palm Springs. They experimented with light, space, form and clean lines; taking advantage of the views, sunlight and combined indoor and outdoor living. The Palm Springs community embraces its past and works hard to maintain those things that make it so unique. There is a passion among several in our community to make sure that new architectural designs are cohesive with the Palm Springs vibe, while others move here specifically to purchase and restore midcentury homes and commercial buildings.

Which of Modernism Week’s 2016 events are you most excited about?

In 2016, we are exploring the outer limits of Palm Springs. We will have events in Rancho Mirage, Palm Desert, Indian Wells, the Salton Sea and a vintage pinball  museum in Banning. Expanding our reach throughout the Coachella Valley gives our attendees something new and more to choose from. I am looking forward to the programming we are planning for CAMP (Community And Meeting Place) in 2016. CAMP is our central headquarters that is open for 10 days in downtown Palm Springs. We will have vendors, exhibitors, food, happy hours, food demonstrations, music, films and lectures.

For those new to Modernism Week, what are essential examples of architecture to see?

A good starting place for someone who has never attended Modernism Week would have to be the Premier Double Decker Architectural Bus Tour. Butterfly and folded plate rooflines, post and beam structures, breeze block walls and sunshades are just a few examples of architectural elements used in midcentury modern homes that guests see.

Why is midcentury modern design still stirring fascination?

For my generation—the Baby Boomers—it’s a step back in time. Modernism and Palm Springs can be a very nostalgic place. It brings back memories of a simpler life and fun times as a child. For today’s younger generation, Modernism is probably more about lifestyle and fashion.

How do you keep Modernism Week fresh year after year?

About 50 percent of attendees return every year. We have the challenge of creating new and exiting events that will keep them coming back. Fortunately, we live in a town that is rich with history and undiscovered architectural gems. However, as we are finding, this is true throughout the Coachella Valley. We are learning more about the surrounding area and are just beginning to scratch the surface of what’s out there.

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