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The 5 Best Things to See and Do at Palm Springs’ Modernism Week

For our money, Palm Springs in February really can’t be beat. At a time when sizable swaths of the Midwest and East Coast are buried under a blanket of snow and numerous SoCal cities are getting drenched with record rainfall, conditions in the Coachella Valley resort town are blessedly balmy, allowing for maximum enjoyment of the desert oasis’ biggest annual event, Modernism Week, in full swing now through February 25.

The 11-day festival’s jam-packed schedule features over 350 happenings, including rare peeks inside local architectural treasures, cocktail parties, fashion shows, film screenings, high-end auctions, concerts, art exhibits, symposiums, and double-decker bus tours through historic neighborhoods. Below are Robb Report’s top five picks among this week’s upcoming events.

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“House of Tomorrow” Twilight Tour & Reception

Palm Springs Modernism Week House of Tomorrow
Palm Springs Modernism Week House of Tomorrow

In 1960, one of Palm Springs’ most influential architects, William Krisel, designed a forward-looking residence for the family of Robert Alexander, one of the area’s most prolific builders, in the Vista Las Palmas neighborhood. Hailed as the “House of Tomorrow” by LIFE magazine, it would gain additional notoriety as the site of Elvis and Priscilla Presley’s 1967 honeymoon. The storied residence’s interior was recently revamped by designer Michelle Boudreau, the results of which will be showcased this week during a special twilight tour and champagne reception.

The Art of Herb Alpert

Palm Springs Modernism Week Herb Alpert
Palm Springs Modernism Week Herb Alpert

Best known as the musician and record company magnate behind such classic hits as “This Guy’s in Love With You” and “Spanish Flea,” Herb Alpert is also a highly regarded painter, sculptor, and major art collector with a 12,000-square-foot warehouse and gallery in Palm Springs. In addition to performing in concert with wife Lani Hall at the Annenberg Theater on February 24, the multitalented Alpert will be exhibiting part of his collection, including works by Picasso, O’Keefe, and Warhol, as well as some of his own paintings and sculptures, at his private gallery space on February 20 and 22nd.

Restoring Hope: Restoration of Bob Hope’s Southridge Residence

Palm Springs Modernism Week Bob Hope
Palm Springs Modernism Week Bob Hope

One of Palm Springs’ most recognizable landmarks, the 24,000-square-foot Bob Hope House in the guard-gated Southridge Estates neighborhood, was designed in the 1970s by modernist master John Lautner, with its construction overseen by Lautner’s lead architect Helena Arahuete. The otherworldly residence was purchased for $13 million in 2016 by venture capitalist Ron Burkle, who enlisted Arahuete’s services for the property’s ambitious restoration along with architectural designer Tim Gleason as project manager. On Wednesday, February 21, Gleason will present a behind-the-scenes look at the Hope Residence’s troubled history and meticulous rebuild

Party at the Sinatra Estate

Palm Springs Modernism Week Frank Sinatra
Palm Springs Modernism Week Frank Sinatra

While the list of celebrities who made Palm Springs their playground back in its postwar heyday is practically endless (Liberace, Lucille Ball, Debbie Reynolds, Dinah Shore, and Dean Martin among them), it’s hard to think of a more effective pitchman for the desert resort than Frank Sinatra. A man for whom parties were serious business, when Sinatra was in residence at his E. Stewart Williams-designed estate, he would reportedly hoist a Jack Daniels flag between the home’s eponymous twin palms to let pals know that the bar was open. And what could be a more fitting salute to Modernism Week than a swingin’ shindig at Ol’ Blue Eyes’ old pad?

Albert Frey Symposium

Palm Springs Modernism Week Albert Frey
Palm Springs Modernism Week Albert Frey

Born in Switzerland in 1903, Albert Frey moved to Palm Springs in 1934 and began developing a style of modernist architecture that came to be known as Desert Modernism. Over a long and prolific career, he produced more than 200 building designs, including such notable local landmarks as the Palm Springs City Hall, the Aerial Tramway Valley Station (with John Porter Clark), his own residence, Frey House II, and the Aluminaire House™, both in the permanent collection of the Palm Springs Art Museum. Despite his key role in shaping Palm Springs’ built environment, while not exactly obscure, Frey has never had the name recognition accorded many of his peers and contemporaries, such as William Cody, Wexler & Harrison, and William Krisel. That won’t be the case for much longer, however.

This year, the Palm Springs Art Museum is shining a spotlight on Frey with a major exhibit, Albert Frey: Inventive Modernist, curated by designer/architectural historian Brad Dunning. Being published in conjunction with the exhibit is a new book on Frey’s life and work, with text by Pulitzer Prize-winning architecture critic Paul Goldberger, architectural historian Barbara Lamprecht, and architect and biographer Joseph Rosa. To cap it off, Frey is the subject of a Modernism Week symposium that will be conducted by the four aforementioned experts. The symposium is scheduled to take place at the Palm Springs Art Museum’s Annenberg Theater on Saturday, February 24, from 9 am to 1 pm.

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