The desert environment influenced the architectural choices of the renowned Donald Wexler. The use of steel was more a practical choice than anything else. He had built a house out of wood in 1955 and quickly realized it wasn’t the best material to use for the desert conditions. His efforts to simply find a better material led to a decision that made its mark on midcentury modern architecture.
Affordability was of paramount concern. Steel was a cheaper material to use in construction at that time. He designed them to be manufactured offsite and then brought in to an area and constructed in as little as a four house. The entire project would last a month. Today, that method might be seen as less desirable for various reasons; but during this time the population was impressed with practical, affordable housing.
The integrity of his structures was something that Donald Wexler ensured with all his projects. Although his houses were technically considered prefab they are extremely sturdy and can withstand the harsh desert climate. Wexler was quoted as saying, “The steel houses will never come down unless someone bulldozes them.” Aren’t we all lucky he made the choices he made?
If you own a Wexler steel home you are ensured of great curb appeal and a high-intensity cool factor. The combination of steel, glass and rock is used a lot in the desert. The houses seem to almost be floating because the materials allow that to happen. The element of bringing the outside in is something that adds openness beyond each house’s walls. You could never feel claustrophobic in a Wexler-built home.
Donald Wexler died in 2015 at the age of 89, but his structures carry on his legacy. The mark he made on the MCM world was permanent. No wonder he was referred to as, “The Man of Steel.” Ironic isn’t it?
If you want to learn more about the legend and the man, seek out and watch the documentary, “Journeyman Architect: The Life and Work of Donald Wexler.”