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Desert Modernism 101

presented by
Palm Springs Modern Committee (PS ModCom)
in partnership with
University of California, Riverside (UCR) Palm Desert
Osher Lifelong Learning Institute

Sponsored by Eisenhower Health

Lectures are free of charge and require registration only

The Palm Springs Modern Committee presents an informative and entertaining look at the principles of design that rocked the world of design in post-war America. The philosophy of modernism encompasses architecture; interior design; art; and fashion. The upcoming lecture series will cover all of these topics and more.

This free adult program has been developed by PS ModCom’s Education Committee Leaders Joan Gand and Mimi Fisher both avid architecture preservationists from the Midwest

All lectures will be held at the University of California Campus in Palm Desert in the Auditorium of Building B, located at 75080 Frank Sinatra Drive.

Following the lectures guests will have the opportunity to meet the speakers while enjoying complimentary wine, cheese and refreshing beverages.

Lectures are free of charge and require registration only

From Bauhaus to Our House – Midcentury Modernism in the Coachella Valley
Presented by Joan Gand and Mimi Fisher
Tuesday, November 14, 2023 6pm

How did the Coachella Valley become a living museum of desert modern architecture? What makes a building midcentury modern? Who are the architects that created the unique collection of desert modernism here in our valley?

Joan Gand is the Chair of Education for PS ModCom and has served on the board of the Chicago Architecture Center. She is the co-author of the book: Julius Shulman, Chicago Mid-Century Modernism and has recently completed the restoration of two midcentury homes in California. She also performs as the keyboardist in the Gand Band.

Mimi Fisher has always had a keen interest in architecture and graphic design and is currently designing jewelry. She has served on the board of the Palm Springs Art Museum’s former Architecture & Design Council and is a member of PS ModCom’s Education Committee.


Albert Frey and the Birth of Desert Modernism
Presented by Peter Moruzzi
Tuesday, December 12, 2023 6pm

This lecture covers the work of Swiss-born architect Albert Frey (1903-1998). Learn the fascinating history of Frey’s work from his beginnings in France, his transition to United States, and his eventual choice of Palm Springs as his permanent home. Frey leaves an extraordinary legacy of work that we continue to enjoy today.

Peter Moruzzi is an historian and preservationist with expertise in the architecture of the modern movement. He served as chair of the Los Angeles Conservancy’s Modern Committee from 1992 -1997, and as a member of the Conservancy’s board of directors. In 1999, he was the founding president of the Palm Springs Modern Committee, a non- profit organization dedicated to the appreciation and preservation of desert modern architecture and design. In 2002, for his efforts at preserving Modernist architecture in Palm Springs, Peter received a Presidential Citation for public service from the American Institute of Architects’ California Council, the President’s Award from the California Preservation Foundation in 2012 and the UCLA Architecture and Urban Design Award in 2016. Peter served on the Palm Springs Planning Commission for five years and is the author of six pictorial history books including two about Palm Springs.


The Alexander Homes Bring High Style to the Coachella Valley
Presented by Chris Menrad
Tuesday, January 9, 2024 6pm

Learn about the innovative family-owned business that built more than 2,000 desert modern homes in the Coachella Valley. Their lead architect, William Krisel, created an iconic modern style that was both affordable and simple to build. Architects Charles DuBois and Donald Wexler continued to innovate with the Alohaus A-frames and the famous Steel Houses.

The Alexanders themselves were a stylish and charismatic family that graced the pages of many national magazines. Their modernist lifestyle included architecture, fashion, sportscars, and martinis, capturing the imagination of a new generation of home buyers.

Chris Menrad is a founding board member and past-president of PS ModCom. He co-authored the book William Krisel’s Palm Springs: The Language of Modernism. Chris has restored many Alexander homes, including his own. The Ocotillo Lodge restoration won a PS ModCom Preservation Award in 2009. Chris’s own Alexander home, designed by William Krisel, has been designated a Class One Historic Site, the first Krisel-designed structure to be so designated. It is so well known that it is now a popular stop on architecture tours and the subject of many photographs. Chris has subsequently restored three additional Alexander homes in the Twin Palms Area and is active in the Twin Palms Neighborhood Organization.


Mid-Century Modernism in Rancho Mirage, Palm Desert, and Indian Wells
Presented by Karen Prinzmetal and James Schnepf
Tuesday, February 13, 2024 6pm

Learn about the magnificent modernist architecture that abounds throughout the cities of Rancho Mirage, Palm Desert and Indian Wells. Country club architecture came to be defined by William Cody’s elegant minimalism in designs for the clubhouses of Thunderbird, Tamarisk and Eldorado Country Clubs, and other developments. Sunnylands, a modernist tour de force by A. Quincy Jones, Sandpiper condominiums by William Krisel, the Wave House by Walter White, and the only Schindler home in the desert are just some of the standouts that dot the mid-valley.

Karen Prinzmetal has been a leading force in the architectural community ever since arriving in the desert in 1998. She is a past board member of the former Palm Springs Architecture and Design Council, a founder of the PS Architecture and Design Museum, and steering member of the Historical Society of Palm Desert. She was honored in 2021 with the Palm Springs Modern Committee’s Lifetime Achievement Award for Historical Preservation. Karen and her late husband Jim West, have been instrumental in documenting architectural gems in Palm Desert, Rancho Mirage and Indian Wells.

James Schnepf describes himself as a location and people photographer who spends part of the year at his William Krisel designed 1959 Sandpiper home in Palm Desert and travels the world for a long list of corporate and editorial clientele. His coffee table book, Palm Springs Modern Living, was published by Gibbs Smith in 2015. The photography driven book celebrates the people who live in wonderful midcentury modern architecture in the California desert communities of Palm Springs, Rancho Mirage and Palm Desert.


Midcentury Modern Fashion Then and Now
Presented by Trina Turk
Tuesday, March 12, 2024 6pm

The phrase “Midcentury Modernism” brings to mind architecture, furniture, and interior design, yet fashion also embraced the pared-down design influences that were in the air at the time. The result was a fashion revolution. Trina will discuss the impact of Modernism on midcentury fashion, and how this rich history inspires her current collections. The presentation will touch on the practical American approach of Bonnie Cashin, the space-age stylings of Pierre Cardin, Courreges and Paco Rabanne, the youthquake of London’s Mary Quant, the free-the-body approach of Los Angeles-based Rudi Gernreich, Yves Saint Laurent’s Mondrian dress, and the important print houses Marimekko, Vera and Pucci.

Trina Turk is a designer and entrepreneur whose collection is featured at her five boutiques, at, Saks Fifth Avenue, Neiman Marcus and in 200 specialty stores throughout the US. Founded in 1995, Trina Turk is inspired by California’s multicultural mix, creativity, craftsmanship, architecture, and landscape–a synergy that permeates her contemporary, colorful aesthetic. Her designs are infused with bold signature prints and dynamic hues unique to each collection. Trina’s modern and optimistic outlook meld the best of classic American design with a California confidence, incorporating beautiful fabrications and impeccable quality for effortless élan and carefree glamour. Trina Turk has evolved into a print and color driven lifestyle brand, celebrating California style with chic women’s ready-to-wear, plus swimwear, eyewear, residential goods, and Mr. Turk menswear.


Sponsored by

Arthur Elrod – Desert Interiors Go Modern
Presented by Adele Cygelman
Tuesday, April 9, 2024 6pm

Before Arthur Elrod arrived in Palm Springs, desert interiors typically revolved around variations on brown and beige. After Elrod set up his design studio on Palm Canyon Drive, color came flooding in—bright whites and yellows, saturated blues, greens and reds. Elrod not only introduced the desert to modern furniture and lighting along with cutting-edge technology for the home, he also worked alongside the local architects who were turning Palm Springs into an international resort. His sophisticated yet relaxed interiors were published regularly in the Los Angeles Times Home magazine, Architectural Digest and House & Garden. Elrod’s own house on Southridge, designed in collaboration with architect John Lautner and featured in the Bond movie Diamonds Are Forever, still stands as a testament to his modern vision. Learn how this boy who grew up on a farm in South Carolina became the most influential interior designer in the desert as well as one of the most important figures in 20th-century interior design.

Adele Cygelman was a longtime magazine editor who focused on interior design, architecture and real estate at Architectural Digest and Robb Report and who has been a regular visitor to the desert since 1994. She is the author of Palm Springs Modern, which was the first book to celebrate the midcentury modern architecture of the desert and which celebrates its 25th anniversary in print this year. She is also the author of Arthur Elrod: Desert Modern Design, which examines the life and work of the most influential designer in the desert from 1954 to 1974.


© PS MODCOM 2023