Posted By: Matt Link Friday, February 7, 2014

In the 21st Century, Palm Springs is the site of one of the world’s greatest and most important collections of intact Midcentury Modernist architecture. Even the town’s schools, banks, and churches have now-famous architects’ names on them. But it took the event called Modernism Week to boost these obscure professionals of yesteryear to their merited rock-star-architect status.  

No other single event has had quite the impact on Palm Springs like the 11-day Midcentury architectural, design, and cultural celebration called Modernism Week, celebrating its 9th anniversary from February 13th to 24rd, 2014.

In less than a decade since its four-day debut in 2006, Modernism Week has exploded into an 11-day destination event phenomenon is and now the largest event of its kind in the world. In 2013, over 40,000 people attended Modernism Week’s 100-plus events - making it over five times larger than it was in 2008. At its current growth rate, Modernism Week’s attendees will soon outnumber Palm Springs’ entire resident population.

Modernism Week practically coined the term “architectural tourism,” and the event was a major influence on reinventing Palm Springs as not merely a nice place to work on your tan by the pool, but as a worldwide destination of intellectual, artistic, and historic importance. In less than a year after its four-day debut in 2006, three different home construction companies were replicating Midcentury design in the desert.

Modernism Week’s spotlight on the desert’s remaining Midcentury buildings has made a huge impact on local architectural preservation efforts. As recently as 2003, the stunning World War II-era Biltmore Hotel (pictured below) was demolished without a city permit – or a fine. So it’s no coincidence that nearly half of the city’s 90 or so Class 1 and 2 Historic Sites were designated after 2006 – the inaugural year of Modernism Week. International attention brought to the desert’s architectural jewels does not mean all of Palm Springs’ historic buildings are protected: Up to 300 more structures qualify for Class 1 Historic Site designation.

Modernism Week’s sold-out popularity has given rise to a smorgasbord of other Midcentury events in Palm Springs:

- The Modernism Week Kick-Off Weekend:
A “mini Modernism Week” over the Columbus Day holiday was originally conceived in fall of 2011 for locals and others who couldn’t get tickets for Modernism Week’s sold-out bus tours and events. But nowadays, the Kick-Off Weekend itself routinely sells out!

- The Palm Springs Fine Art Fair: This world-class art show first launched during Modernism Week in 2012 and exceeded all expectations with 9,500 visitors and sales reaching into the millions of dollars. It is held concurrently at the convention center alongside The Modernism Show, which focuses on furniture and design.

- The Modern Living Expo: Taking place during the last weekend of Modernism Week, 2012’s Prefab Showcase morphed into the bigger and broader Modern Living Expo in 2013. Inspired by the modern homes built by developer Joseph Eichler in the 1950s and 1960s, this self-contained expo showcases new innovations in reasonably-priced, eco-friendly, and oh-so stylish prefab homes.

- Mod Palm Springs:
Last October saw the debut of this celebration of Midcentury “Desert Polynesia” architecture and all things vintage Hawaiiana, produced in partnership with well-known retro artist SHAG. It’s held at Curve Hotel in South Palm Springs, also host of the annual May weekend event, the retro Tiki Caliente.

- The Modernism Yard Sale: Launched during Modernism Week in 2013, don’t let its name fool you – shoppers to this bi-annual “yard sale” event in the upscale Uptown Design District get their hands on world-class vintage Midcentury and modern Midcentury-style furniture, clothing, jewelry, dishware, and home decor from Palm Springs’ top boutiques.

And in 2014, Modernism Week debuts its “After Dark” event series of tours and events, including:

Illuminated Modern -
A free nightly exhibition along Palm Canyon Drive showcasing (by the use of specialty lighting) a curated selection of Midcentury and contemporary buildings designed by prominent desert architects.

Modern Mambo! - This Modernism Week After Dark opening party on Feb. 13th happens at the ‘60s-era Caliente Tropics Hotel, which will be transformed into a Mid-century Modern Mambo club with famous DJ Alf Alpha.

Rockabilly Night – The legendary Purple Room supper club at Club Trinidad first opened its doors in 1960 as a Rat Pack hangout for Sinatra and his buds. Recently revamped in late 2013, the Purple Room will be hosting retro live music nights throughout Modernism Week, including Feb. 23rd’s Rockabilly Night, featuring Hot Rod Trio and the Deadbeat Daddies.

Rockin’ The Gatsby – Part of The Edge Series at downtown’s new Hard Rock Hotel, dancers and singers in 1920s garb (along with a live band) perform soundtrack hits from Baz Lurhmann’s 2013 film The Great Gatsby with songs by Lana Del Rey, Jay-Z & Kanye West, and Fergie, on February 14th, 21st, and 22nd.

To purchase tickets to any of these events or for the full Modernism Week After Dark schedule, go to


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