Last updateMon, 20 Apr 2020 1pm

No annual event is more beloved—and as specific to Palm Springs—as Modernism Week.

The February program, a celebration of the city’s history as a playground and showcase for midcentury modern architecture and design, has long since expanded beyond a week. It actually stirs a few months early, in the form of the Modernism Week Fall Preview, which grows more and more as the years go by.

This year’s Modernism Week Fall Preview will take place Thursday through Sunday, Oct. 17-20, with 50 events taking place over those four days—and some of those events are already sold out.

“Most of the events in October are smaller versions of what you’ll see in February,” said Tom Dolle, creative director for Destination PSP, which “produces unique, originally designed merchandise.” Dolle is the creative mind behind the Modernism Week Fall Preview’s immersive, Instagram-friendly Cul-de-Sac Experience, now in its third year.

The Cul-de-Sac Experience is a compelling hybrid of exhibit, home tour and performance art. On Sunday, Oct. 20, one short block of homes in the famed Canyon View Estates, all designed by William Krisel, will be transformed into a period replica outside and in, complete with antique cars in the driveways and costumed extras. The idea came about when Dolle—a graphic designer by trade and a classic-car lover by nature—considered how best to give back to the city he loves. He looked at the cul-de-sac where he resides, which includes eight identical houses, as well as a condo complex. He was once tasked with hosting a friend’s classic car, which, for space reasons, he decided to park in his part-time neighbor’s driveway.

“It was one of those lightbulb moments,” Dolle said. “It was like stepping into a time capsule.”

This year, the dynamic scene will be set in 1966, two years after the famed Whisky a Go Go opened in Los Angeles, and Carol Doda started dancing topless at the Condor Club in San Francisco. In addition to this year’s selection of period cars (“perfectly curated, all convertibles,” Dolle said), organizers are bringing in a DJ and period go-go dancers to perform as visitors mill about, interacting with the houses and a bevy of models dressed in 1960s high fashion. Guests are welcome to dress to the theme, and photography is more than encouraged.

Included in the experience—tickets cost $75—are guided tours of the pool and garden areas, and a souvenir booklet complete with historical information, photos and vintage ads. There will even be a vintage ice cream cart.

“Everyone gets an ice cream—a Fudgesicle or a Creamsicle,” Dolle said.

The Cul-de-Sac Experience is one of the few Fall Preview events that isn’t replicated at the main February event.

“The Fall Preview is becoming much more important (in its own right), and sort of more lifestyle-oriented,” Dolle said, whereas the main event is “much more architecture- and design- and tour-oriented.”

Dolle added: “February really attracts people from all over the world. The fall event, because it’s a shorter time period, is traditionally more local.”

Of course, the Fall Preview will include Modernism Week staples like the double-decker-bus architectural tours (some of which are already sold out). Also popular is the self-guided tour of Frank Sinatra’s former estate, the E. Stewart Williams-designed “Twin Palms Residence” in the Movie Colony neighborhood. It’s listed as a Class 1 historical site by the city of Palm Springs, and became listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2016. Palm Springs Preservation Foundation board members will be on hand to answer questions and provide informational handouts.

The mini-version of the Palm Springs Modernism Show and Sale will take place on Saturday and Sunday, Oct. 19 and 20. Those wanting to get a jump on shopping for vintage furniture, lighting, art, jewelry, rugs, fashion and more from 40 different exhibitors can pay to attend a preview party on Friday night, Oct. 18.

Receiving special focus this fall is prolific local architect Hugh Kaptur, perhaps the last living heavyweight of Palm Springs midcentury modernism. Kaptur, 88, will be present at a free event from 10 a.m. to noon at the recently renovated Kaptur Plaza, and the subject of a free talk given by Palm Springs Preservation Foundation board member Steven Keylon at the Palm Springs Cultural Center at 11 a.m., Sunday, Oct. 20. The new Cole Hotel, a thorough rehabilitation of the Kaptur-designed former Bahama Hotel, will hold a celebratory opening party at 4 p.m., Saturday, Oct. 19; tickets are $55.

The events of the Fall Preview go beyond admiring buildings; for example, those 21 and older can enjoy learning—with a three-drink minimum!—as the bartenders at Mr. Lyons Steakhouse lead a Midcentury Mixology Cocktail Clinic on Friday and Saturday, Oct. 18 and 19; the $62 cost includes the aforementioned three drinks.

Back to Cul-de-Sac A Go Go!: Dolle said he’s excited about creating a place where guests can “be really happy, and have a great time,” even if it is just for a couple of hours.

“It’s celebrating the concept of modernism,” Dolle said.

The Modernism Week Fall Preview, including more than 50 events, takes place Thursday, Oct. 17, through Sunday, Oct. 20. For tickets and more information, including a complete schedule, visit

Published in Local Fun

In Palm Springs, the name “Christopher Kennedy” is essentially synonymous with “modernism.”

Therefore, it’s no surprise that the renowned designer is heavily involved with Modernism Week. In fact, the furniture/interior designer has transformed an Indian Canyons neighborhood home, built in 1964, into Modernism Week’s Show House—aka the Christopher Kennedy Compound.

During a recent interview with the Independent, Kennedy discussed how he was drawn to the Palm Springs area.

“I originally went to school for architecture,” Kennedy said. “I have a five-year degree from Drury University in architecture. I liked the arts approach to architecture, and I guess it was meant to be.

“I came to Palm Springs about 11 years ago. I was born in California, so these kinds of things are in my blood—the afternoons in the pool, the drapes blowing in the breeze and the sprawling ranch houses. I guess it was just fate to end up in Palm Springs.”

Kennedy said he can’t explain where his fascination with modernism came from; it came naturally, he said, although a trip he took to Europe during his college years inspired him.

“(I was) 21 in Paris and going to Corbusier’s apartment and seeing the chaise lounge from 1929,” he recalled. “I actually got to sit in it, and I don’t think you’d get to do that these days. … So I was drawn to modernism back then, and I had sketches and forms I was drawing for school for architecture that have now become a piece of furniture in my furniture line.”

Kennedy was deep into modernism back before it became popular. He also remembers the modest beginnings of Modernism Week.

“My first encounter with Modernism Week was when I was doing a home for a major action-movie star in the Hollywood Hills of Los Angeles. She called me and said, ‘Christopher, we’re going to go shopping at the antique show at Modernism Week, aren’t we?’ I said, ‘Of course we are! Yes! Please come out to Palm Springs’—not really knowing about it. So I first went shopping when (Modernism Week) was kind of only the antique show at the convention center.

“It’s exploded since then. Our trajectories have been about the same: My firm is about 10 years old, and Modernism Week is about 10 years old. To be able to grow together has been really wonderful. To be able to produce the show house that’s affiliated with it, it’s really a dream come true.”

Kennedy has been involved with the redesigns of two modernist homes in the area, one belonging to former Dragnet star Jack Webb, and the first home that Liberace purchased in Palm Springs. However, Kennedy is particularly fascinated by the Kaufmann House, designed in 1946 by Richard Neutra. He’s also amazed at what the Annenbergs did at their Sunnylands estate in Rancho Mirage.

“When you have people who have the vision and the resources, and (are) willing to invest those resources in creating something cutting-edge and monumental that stands the test of time, it’s pretty amazing,” he said. “It’s especially amazing when you watch MTV Cribs, and you see people who have the resources but don’t have the taste, and they don’t put something together like the Kaufmanns or the Annenbergs, who would hire the best architects in the world.”

Kennedy now has his own line of furniture and home accessories that he sells out of his office and storefront at 1590 S. Palm Canyon Drive.

“It’s expanding all the time,” he said. “We launched Christopher Kennedy Collection furniture about four years ago, and there are inspirations from art-deco to midcentury. It’s about 40 pieces of case goods, and it’s carried at the trade shows across the country. It’s been really fun to do and create pieces that someone can invite into their home and love. We launched the candle line a few years ago, and the scents are based off of all the different scents of neighborhoods in Palm Springs.”

While Kennedy is undeniably a fan of midcentury modern architecture, he’s a bit more relaxed regarding the topic than others. He weighed in on the controversy surrounding two office buildings on Tahquitz Canyon Way that were designed by modernist architect Hugh Kaptur; the current owner wants to tear them down, but the Palm Springs Architectural Advisory Committee scuttled those plans.

“I think it’s a balancing act. I don’t think everything is worth preserving. I’ve been in (one of those) particular buildings, and I have clients who were trying to lease a space in that building, and it had its challenges,” he said. “I think Hugh Kaptur is a wonderful architect, but I’m not sure that’s his masterpiece, and I think we do need progress.”

He also expressed mixed feelings about the demolition of portions of downtown Palm Springs’ Spa Resort Casino. He said not all of it was worth saving—but one thing in particular bothered him.

“I think for them to throw (some of the) sculptures in the trash is just poor business,” he said. “Those sculptures were worth six figures easily, and for them to just throw them into the trash with the stucco, it kind of breaks my heart.”

Kennedy said he’s not surprised that Modernism Week has become such a renowned event, thanks in part to nostalgia for the era that gave birth to modernism.

“It’s been said that I’m sentimental and nostalgic, which is fine, because I own that,” he said. “To me, nostalgia isn’t just about a certain form; it’s about California glamour and an era when things were simple—when there was a certain standard of manners and common courtesy. I miss the days when people would dress up to get on airplanes, and when families would sit down to eat together, and you would talk and not text on phones. As a society, we’ve become increasingly fractured, and we have a collective yearning for the simpler, more-gracious time.”

For more information on Modernism Week’s Christopher Kennedy Compound, visit Below: A rendering of the 2015 Christopher Kennedy Compound, by Victoria Molinelli.

Published in Visual Arts