Collection by Lawrence Karol

Iconic Midcentury Bank Repurposed in Palm Springs


E. Stewart Williams’s Santa Fe Federal Savings and Loan building from 1961 gains new life as the Palm Springs Art Museum Architecture and Design Center.

When it comes to preserving incredible midcentury icons, Palm Springs is the town that just keeps on giving. In 1961, the renowned architect E. Stewart Williams reinvented the notion of what a bank could look like when he designed Santa Fe Federal Savings and Loan as a giant glass pavilion. After sitting vacant for years, this elegant building has been transformed into the Palm Springs Art Museum Architecture and Design Center. Williams’s daughter-in-law, Sidney, was a driving force behind the renovation. “This has been a huge team effort that seemed at times unachievable,” she says. “Seeing it completed now is a testament to many creative, inspired people pursuing this shared goal with passion.” The detailed restoration was overseen by the Los Angeles architectural firm Marmol Radziner. “It was a pleasure to ensure the survival of work by a desert modern style icon and preserve part of the city’s architectural heritage,” says Leo Marmol. “I particularly appreciate how seamlessly and easily the space converted to use as a gallery. The versatility speaks to the power of simple, modern design.”

The restored exterior of the building is a virtual match to the one shown in this photograph shot by Julius Shulman in...
This Shulman photograph shows the lobby of the bank in 1960.
In the new center, the screens in the lobby and the terrazzo floors are original.
The bank’s vault is now the center’s bookstore—and has been fittingly named, The Vault.
The 13,000-square-foot center features expanses of glass that showcase the desert landscape.