10 Things You Shouldn’t Miss at Modernism Week in Palm Springs

By Michele Koh Morollo
From February 15 to 25, the Greater Palm Springs area celebrates midcentury modern design with 11 days of talks, films, architecture tours, exhibitions, and events.

The 13th annual Modernism Week will kick off with a keynote presentation by former Dwell CEO Michela O’Connor Abrams and include nightly parties; talks about architectural preservation, Frank Lloyd Wright, and legendary women in design; on-site design consultations; walking, cycling, and bus tours; and rare opportunities to look inside iconic midcentury modern homes. 

If you'll be in town for the festivities, here are 10 things that you shouldn’t miss at Modernism Week this February.

1. Palm Springs City Hall 

An icon of midcentury modern architecture, Palm Springs City Hall was designed in 1952 by the father of desert modernism, Albert Frey, together with his team of Palm Springs architects Robson Cole Chambers, John Porter Clark, Albert Frey, and E. Stewart Williams. One of the most interesting features of the building is its screen wall, constructed with the cross-section of metal tubing, arranged in columns to deflect the morning sun. 

Palm Springs City Hall

Palm Springs City Hall

2. Abernathy House 

Designed by William F. Cody in 1962 for millionaire James Logan Abernathy, this residence is composed of a central pavilion with L-shaped wings at the northeast and southeast corners, and a continuous pergola that connects outdoor pavilions to the sheltered interior spaces. Abernathy House is outfitted with rare midcentury furniture and décor by well-known French and American designers. Tours of Abernathy House are conducted from 12 to 4 p.m., and cost $45 per person. 

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Abernathy House

Abernathy House

3. Dinah Shore House 

On February 17, from 5 to 7 p.m., those lucky enough to get tickets can visit the interiors of the Dinah Shore House, also known as the Dinah Shore Palm Springs Estate. The house was built by the legendary Donald Wexler in 1964 for the top-charting singer and actress Dinah Shore and her then husband Maurice, and is now owned by Leonardo DiCaprio who purchased it in 2014. If you can’t get your hands on tickets for the tours of the interiors, you can still marvel at its striking façade on one of the guided tours. 

Dinah Shore House by Donald Wexler

Dinah Shore House by Donald Wexler

4. House of Tomorrow: Elvis’ Honeymoon Hideaway 

The Alexander Construction Company, which was founded by George Alexander and his son Robert, built over 2,200 houses in the Greater Palm Springs area between 1955 and 1965. They worked closely with architect William Krisel on many of their tract housing projects. In 1962, William Krisel designed "House of Tomorrow" for Robert Alexander and his wife. The house is also where Elvis and Priscilla Presley honeymooned in 1967. 

Psst—for those of you on the market, it's also for sale.

House of Tomorrow, or "Elvis' honeymoon hideaway"

House of Tomorrow, or "Elvis' honeymoon hideaway"

5. Frey House II 

The Palm Spring Art Museum’s Architecture and Design Council are hosting tours of Frey House II, Swiss-American midcentury desert-modern master Albert Frey’s second home in Palm Springs. It took Frey five years to find the perfect site—a rocky hillside at the west end of Tahquitz Canyon Way—for the house, which he designed in 1964 with a flat corrugated-aluminum roof, sun-shielding overhangs, and sliding glass doors that showcase amazing views. Guided tours that cost $60 per person take place between 9 a.m. and 5:15 p.m. on February 18.