Swiss Miss

The first time I went to Palm Springs, we went on this really cool mid-century architecture tour called PS Modern. I’m so glad I took this tour, and The New York Times describes it perfectly:

On Palm Spring’s main drag sits one of the city’s oldest architectural touchstones: a concrete bell tower salvaged from the long-gone Oasis Hotel, which was designed by Lloyd Wright (son of Frank) in 1924. This spot is also where Robert Imber, the often seersucker-clad architectural guru and one-man show behind this tour group, starts his three-hour excursions, which provide a survey of the city’s key structures with a focus on the midcentury sweet spot. Design enthusiasts can press their faces against the windows of Mr. Imber’s minivan, catching glimpses of the iconic Albert Frey-designed Tramway Gas Station, Richard Neutra’s 1946 Kaufmann Desert House and the mass-produced but stunning Alexander homes that your guide identifies by pointing out the four key components — “garage, breezeway, windows, wall” — in their various arrangements. Yes, architectural maps are available at the Visitors Center, but consider that Mr. Imber adds the kind of extensive, often quirky information that a brochure could never provide.

The original Oasis Hotel, designed by Lloyd Wright in 1925 (son of Frank Lloyd Wright).

Here is the old Oasis Hotel bell tower today, tucked away from the main thoroughfare. A person would just walk right by it, not even noticing it, let alone any awareness that it was once part of one of the first hotels in Palm Springs.

A month or so ago, I went back to Palm Springs. I didn’t spring for the tour again this time (though it is something I want to do again), but we did ride bikes through the neighborhoods, taking pictures of some of the spots Robert Imber had showed us before. I became especially fond of these “swiss miss” houses, with their alpine-esque roofs.

There’s something so amusing and whimsical about these houses. They seem so out of place in the desert, but fit right in at the same time. There’s an interesting architectural history regarding the Alexanders (the father and son team who built many of the flat-roofed homes in Palm Springs), the famous architectural team Dan Palmer and William Krisel, and a third party, Dunas, who wanted to do something architecturally different, and that included the “swiss miss”-style homes. Read all about it here.

I also enjoyed “Villa Nancy” (Nancy Sinatra’s house):

Mostly for the fancy “S” on the driveway pillars:

My tagline for PS:  Palm Springs, Where Inspiration Meets Vacation.

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