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William Krisel, AIA, principal of the firm of Palmer & Krisel (formed with Partner Dan Palmer), was born in 1924 in Shanghai of American parents working overseas for the U.S. State Department. Krisel lived in China until age 13, when his family returned to the US, where he attended Beverly Hills High.
During World War II, Krisel was assigned to General Joe Stilwell as a Chinese interpreter. He attended USC for his degree in architecture. Krisel has also been a licensed landscape architect since 1954.
Designing more than 30,000 living units throughout Southern California, Krisel’s career spanned over 51 years. A close personal friend of developer Bob Alexander and his family, Krisel came to the Desert at the request of Alexander to design a tract of modernist houses dubbed Smoke Tree Valley (now known as Twin Palms for the pair of Palm trees that graced each of the homes).
Other Palmer & Krisel projects include the Ocotillo Lodge, Las Palmas Estates (Vista Las Palmas), Kings Point and Canyon View Estates, Racquet Club Estates, “Valley of the Sun” in Rancho Mirage and the Sandpiper condo complex in Palm Desert (which garnered an AIA merit award for Landscape Architecture). The “House of Tomorrow,” conceived as an experiment in modern living, so impressed Alexander’s wife Helene that they made it their personal residence. The house later gained fame as the honeymoon home of Elvis and Priscilla Presley.
Krisel is one of the few mid-century modern architects who has not only lived to see, but also participate in the resurgence of modernism in Palm Springs. In recent years, he has contributed to the restoration of many of his original designs. Beginning in 2008, Krisel collaborated with Maxx Livingstone on exact replicas of his mid-century designs, constructed with all new materials and aimed towards LEED certification. A film on his life and contributions, William Krisel, Architect, premiered at the 2010 Palm Springs Modernism Week. Krisel’s archive now resides at the Getty Research Institute.