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Kurt Cyr, Hip Owner of Mod Squad Tours

Kurt Cyr

Get A Taste Of  Palm Springs Mod-Style Design

For as long as humankind has lived indoors, architecture has fascinated us. The curve of a rooftop, the flow of a corridor, and the towering triumph of the walls surrounding us are the hallmarks of who we are and what we aspire to be. And for Mod Squad Tours owner Kurt Cyr, the love of architecture begins at home.

“Our first house in 1999 was one of the last Alexanders,” he reminisces. “I just knew that we wanted a sexy house with glass walls that opened out to the swimming pool. That’s what we got. It’s been a learning process for me about the specifics of the design. I knew of some of the architects but then really started deep diving into learning more about the specific desert modern architects here. When you live here in Palm Springs, the local architects are celebrities.”

Cyr savors names like Bill Krisel and Donald Wexler like he’s sipping a fine wine, and continuing this metaphor of a desirable vintage, his knowledge of the Palm Springs aesthetic aged beautifully over the next decade.

Mid century modern home

It Began With Modernism Week

“2010 is when we moved here full time. It was during the depths of the recession, so there wasn’t much design work going on.” Ever resourceful, Kurt began constructing a new legacy for himself. “I started volunteering during Modernism Week because, as a designer, I loved architecture and midcentury design, and there were so many cool houses. This was a way for me to get inside the houses during Modernism Week. So I docent’ed and was tapped a couple years later to get on top of the double-decker buses and do the tours. My buses started selling out, and then they were getting chartered, and I thought, ‘This is pretty cool!’ I enjoyed doing it.”

After wading through the necessary licensing process, Cyr was ready to hit the road in style. “And I founded Palm Springs Mod Squad Tours five years ago.”

mod squad car

A Love for Mid-Century Modern

Since its inception, Kurt’s business has enlightened scores of visitors to the hidden wonders of our hometown. “Most people are quite surprised that Palm Springs, being such a small city, has such a wealth of impressive architecture. The fact that it survived is really quite amazing.”

Cyr regards mid-century modernism with the dedication of a first responder rescuing it from the ashes of time. “This was going on everywhere in Southern California. Los Angeles had this type of architecture. But because Palm Springs was a resort community, people didn’t constantly remodel, change, and upgrade their houses.  They only used them a few months out of the year… Development passed Palm Springs by in the 70’s and 80’s towards the down valley.”

Like an archaeologist of awesome, Kurt’s voice swells with hope as he recounts the happy ending to this chapter of history. “The fact that it was such an extensive group of intact mid-century modern homes, in a way Palm Springs was the deep freezer of midcentury design just waiting for the thaw to happen in the mid-1990s.”

Honeymoon Hideaway
Elvis Honeymoon Hideaway

The Resurgence of Palm Springs

The warmth of Cyr’s delivery flickers into a blaze as he continues, “They started to get rediscovered. And they were cheap! So, as a young designer out of Los Angeles, you could get a house that was 125 to 150 thousand dollars and have it as your second home. So they were really cool designs and eminently affordable.”

Accessibility breeds notoriety, and Kurt Cyr is riding a wave that continues to refresh the architectural world. “With the popularity of Modernism Week and Mad Men, midcentury design is very much of the zeitgeist right now. Everybody is interested in midcentury design.”

Planting a flag in said zeitgeist, Cyr pronounces, “Palm Springs has become an architectural destination for the world.”

Kaufmann House
Kaufmann House

See The Architecture With Kurt

And he’s ready to welcome these curious caravans, one ride at a time, with his Mod Squad tours. “In my daily tours, I fit five people comfortably. It’s a minivan, so these are intimate tours. It’s not uncommon to have someone from England, a couple from Australia, someone from Germany, somebody from Brooklyn, we get an incredible cross-section of the world coming to Palm Springs specifically to see our architecture.”

If Kurt sounds like the perfect host, he appreciates the warm embrace of the Palm Springs community that he now calls home. “What we discovered when we moved out here was that within six months, we had a richer, deeper social network of friends than we ever did in the 20-some years in Los Angeles. People in Palm Springs choose to live here. They’re not here by accident. The fact that they chose to be here makes me think they’re happy. And that makes for a very happy town. A wonderful creative class lives in Palm Springs and comes from all over the world.”

Mod Squad logo

Cyr wants to nurture this creativity so that the collective enthusiasm for midcentury modernism never again fades into the shadows of history. “We must continue to preserve and maintain our architecture, but it’s also important not to just live in the past. Continuing this architectural tradition by bringing younger people in with schooling is important. I think that there needs to be an architectural school here.”

Big passion yields big dreams, and Kurt yearns to “bring young people in to see and learn from the past but also to create and design the future. That’s an important lifeblood for Palm Springs. We have such a rich, architecturally historic past, and we can build upon that for the future.”

And it is a bright future as long as Palm Springs Mod Squad Tour is at the helm.

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