If you’ve picked up a copy of Remodeled Marvels, you’ll see that Dick Burkett wrote the foreword. We caught up with him to ask about his favorite MCM architects, how he met Jickie Torres and Atomic Ranch, and about his work preserving MCM architecture in Palm Springs.
Atomic Ranch: What got you interested in MCM architecture and design?
Dick Burkett: My initial entrée was as a child as my mother furnished our ranch house with shag carpet and 50s furnishings. My next exposure was working for a boutique hotel company as a V-P owned by Morton May (May Department stores) in St. Louis. The lobbies of the hotels were furnished with Saarinen and Mies van der Rohe furniture. The suites included Dunbar, Saarinen and Florence Knoll and the guest rooms were furnished with 60s Heywood-Wakefield. Later in life, I spent 14 wonderful years in Sarasota, Florida where I socialized with several members of The Sarasota School of Architecture—including Carl Abbott, who I was fortunate to have design our home on Lido Shores along the Gulf of Mexico.
AR: What’s your favorite thing that you were able to do with the Palm Springs Modern Committee?
DB: While I was on the Palm Springs Modern Committee board, I organized two symposiums for Modernism Week. One of them honored the work of the well-known architect Paul Rudolph, who was the inspiration of The Sarasota School. Later in Rudolph’s career, he was appointed Dean of Architecture for Yale. Having known Carl Abbott professionally, I invited him as our keynote speaker followed by a panel of architecture professors from University of Massachusetts, the University of Arizona and the present Dean of Yale Architecture as each of them had a tie in to Rudolph.
AR: What led you to co-found the Palm Springs Architectural Alliance?
DB: Over the past many years, I had been focusing on preservation efforts in Palm Springs. In fact architecture was a key ingredient in why my partner and I moved here from Florida 17 years ago. About 10 years ago, I became keenly aware that the integrity of architecture design was eroding for new commercial construction. It became obvious that a great deal of the new build architecture here could be Anywhere, USA. Our architectural heritage which is known internationally deserves a high level of design integrity that reflects innovation, sustainability and addresses environmental issues to honor our past. Fast forward to three years ago when three friends and I founded the PSAA. We are slated to work with the city this fall to create a design guideline task force that will formulate a set of design guidelines for new commercial buildings that will encourage innovation, sustainability, and address today’s environmental concerns. Another major project for the PSAA is facilitating a partnership between the College of the Desert and Cal Poly Pomona for a Bachelor of Science in Architecture program on the new PS campus. Simultaneously we are in the midst of publishing a book, The Palm Springs School authored by Alan Hess to take our rightful place along with The Sarasota School, The Prairie School, The Chicago School and The Harvard 5.
AR: How did you meet Jickie?
DB: Jickie and I met several years ago at a Modernism Week event, and we discovered there was a great synergy and connection to our respective missions. It has been a delight to participate in Jickie’s panel discussions during Modernism Week sponsored by Atomic Ranch.
AR: How did you feel about writing the foreword to Remodeled Marvels?
DB: The subject matter of Remodeled Marvels is one that I can relate to from the professional experiences my partner and I have had in the renovation of 12 resort and rental conversions, most being on the Gulf of Mexico and Atlantic Ocean and 20 residential properties spanning from Florida to Delaware, Washington DC, West Virginia, Mexico and California. With this comprehensive background, I felt comfortable in writing the foreword for Remodeled Marvels‘ amazing compilation of experiences, ideas, safeguards and practical information for the reader who is considering, planning or in the midst of a renovation project. Anything we can do to inform, lighten the process, and improve the outcome for those brave homeowners renovating or restoring a mid century home is most gratifying. It was an honor to be asked.
AR: Do you have a favorite MCM architect? Designer?
DB: This is a difficult question so let me provide my responses geographically:
Palm Springs—Albert Frey, E. Stewart Williams and Don Wexler
Sarasota—Paul Rudolph, Carl Abbott and Gene Leedy
Nationally—Mies van der Rohe, Phillip Johnson and Renzo Piano
Charles and Ray Eames, Francis Knoll, Steve Chase, Arthur Elrod
To read Dick Burkett’s foreword and find Mid Century Modern renovation wisdom and inspiration, don’t miss Atomic Ranch’s book Remodeled Marvels. In it, Atomic Ranch’s very own Jickie Torres takes you through the process, room by room, including the exterior and outdoor spaces. Find many of these fantastic MCM exteriors and doors as well as backyards and more besides for inspiration. Read hard-won advice from seasoned MCM homeowners, designers, landscape architects and more. Get your copy or buy one for a friend at our site or on Amazon.