Palm Springs, with its rich history of architecture, is working to ensure the legacy continues. The Palm Springs School of Architecture is partnering with the College of the Desert and Cal Poly Pomona to provide an advanced 5-year degree for qualified students. Fostering forward-thinking in design and preservation efforts, the new program will also focus on sustainability and materials as we look towards the future.

The Ship of the Desert home, showcasing its cream-colored exterior in relation to The Palm Springs School of Architecture
Many structures in Palm Springs emulate the architectural focus of this school. For example, Ship of the Desert (1936, Earle Webster and Adrian Wilson) represents one of the few Streamline Moderne buildings in this California city.

Dick Burkett, Chair of the Palm Springs Historic Site Preservation Board and a member of the PS ModCom board, began the 5-year degree initiative in January 2019 by organizing an informal group of local organizations that evolved into the Palm Springs Architectural Alliance.

“The first order of business was to bring the College of the Desert and Cal Poly Pomona together for discussions to create a partnership,” he shares.

But the idea was actually sparked six years ago when Dick was attending a symposium focused on the Sarasota School of Architecture. Inspired by the school—with its rich history of connecting architecture and environment, resulting in a distinct style of regional modernism—Dick sought to bring a similar architectural academia to the Coachella Valley.

The paraboloid of the Tramway Gas Station as a reference to the Palm Springs School of Architecture
Featuring a soaring hyperbolic paraboloid roofline, the Tramway Gas Station (1965, Albert Frey and Robson C. Chambers) is an example of mid century style being preserved today.

Forward-Thinking Campus

The new energy-neutral campus, built by College of the Desert, will be located in the heart of Palm Springs, covering 27 acres. Not only will the initiative and campus connect the community through continued education, but it will also attract students and faculty from around the globe.

“There will be international student appeal because of Palm Springs’ reputation as being an architectural mecca,” says Dick. “Students will have the opportunity to be fully immersed.” Dick also points out that it will be a family-friendly school and a central point for many community events as well.

A googie-inspired bank with repeating parabolas, as in reference to the Palm Springs School of Architecture.
The Coachella Valley Savings & Loan (1961, E. Stewart Williams) is an example of the New Formalism style, featuring dramatic curved columns sitting above a pool of water and jetting fountains.

Mod Week

To celebrate and educate about the developing partnership, a Modernism Week event will be held on February 21st at the Annenberg Theater. This panel discussion and visual presentation will include initial design concepts from the Program Master Architect and Site Planner Architects.

The Little Town and Desert Apartment Hotel with its green-beamed exterior in relation to the Palm Springs School of Architecture.
The Town and Desert Apartment Hotel (1947, Herbert Burns), now known as “The Hideaway”.


Want to know how a similar school influenced mid mod style? Learn about the iconic Sarasota School of Architecture right here!

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