Modernism Week announced today that famed architect, author, and historian Alan Hess has joined its board of directors. Hess has written twenty books on Modern architecture and urbanism in the mid-twentieth century. His latest book Hollywood Modern: Houses of the Stars was published in October 2018. He serves as Commissioner on the California Historical Resources Commission, and as chair of the Preserve Orange County board. He has been a frequent speaker at Modernism Week for many years.
Hess has written monographs on architects Oscar Niemeyer, Frank Lloyd Wright, and John Lautner, as well as architectural histories of Las Vegas and Palm Springs. Hess’ books include Googie: Ultramodern Roadside Architecture, Forgotten Modern, Julius Shulman: Palm Springs, and The Ranch House. He is currently writing California Modern Architecture 1900-1975, the subject of his Modernism Week talk in 2018.
“We are thrilled to have a person of Alan’s caliber and integrity on our board,” said William Kopelk, Modernism Week Board President. “The Modernism Week board not only oversees the management of the organization, but all board members also take an active role in planning our many events. Alan will provide a wealth of knowledge and insight to the organization and has already committed to participating in some of the programing for the 2020 February festival.”
“Palm Springs Modernism Week continues to play a key role nationally and internationally in establishing the importance of Modernism in shaping the 20th century,” said Hess. “I’m honored to be part of its expanding campaign to explore and preserve the buildings and ideas of this major movement for future generations to enjoy and learn from.”
Hess will host several ticketed events during Modernism Week. On February 17 at 2 PM Hess will present “Beyond the Orange Curtain: Modern Life, Work and Play in Orange County” at the Modernism Week CAMP Theater, located at 575 N. Palm Canyon Drive.
Hess will lead a panel exploring the little-known but surprising modernist frontier of California’s Orange County. Stepping out of the shadow of neighboring Los Angeles, Orange Country has its own unique modern heritage. Architects like Lautner, Neutra, Schindler, Pereira, Jones, Gruen and Becket helped to shape its architecture by mixing everyday life with the spirit of the Endless Summer. The County introduced a host of less famous but equally creative local architects that both newcomers and modern aficionados need to know. Tickets are $15.
The panel will be offered in conjunction with a fundraising event that Hess will host called “Modernism’s Next Frontier: Saving Orange County” on February 19 at 3 PM. It will be held at the Joan and Gary Gand house, a landmark by Harold Levitt in the Vista Las Palmas neighborhood in Palm Springs. This fundraiser supports Preserve Orange County, a non-profit advocacy group dedicated to increasing public awareness of Modernism and defending the built heritage of this important region. Hors d’oeuvres and a brief presentation on the successes and challenges faced by Preserve Orange County will be included.
Preserve Orange County has preserved William Pereira’s Hunt Library, and is campaigning to protect many modern properties, including Ladd & Kelsey’s Stuft Shirt (now A’maree’s) boutique in Newport Beach, and Armét and Davis’ Bob’s Big Boy restaurant in Garden Grove. It also keeps an eye on internationally famous modern designs such as Rudolph Schindler’s Lovell Beach House, Richard Neutra’s innovative drive-in Community Church in Garden Grove, William Pereira’s master planned city of Irvine and Michael Graves’ Postmodern San Juan Capistrano library. Tickets to this fundraising event are $125.
On February 18 at 9 AM Hess will present “The 1931 Aluminaire House and Palm Springs” at the Annenberg Theatre in Palm Springs. In his presentation, Hess will discuss how important the Aluminaire House is to Palm Springs. Designed by Albert Frey and A. Lawrence Kocher, it is one of the earliest examples of modern architecture in America. Erected in less than 10 days for an exhibition, it was the first house to be constructed solely from light steel and aluminum. It was also one of the few structures to represent the American modern movement at the Exhibition of Modern Architecture, curated by Henry-Russell Hitchcock and Philip Johnson at the Museum of Modern Art in 1932. The Aluminaire House arrived with great fanfare to Palm Springs in 2017. There are two proposals for its long-term location currently under consideration.
Hess and his coauthor Michael Stern will offer a presentation on their book “Hollywood Modern: Houses of the Stars” on February 21 at 6:30 PM at the Palm Springs Public Library, located at 300 South Sunrise Way.
This book and their presentation explore the intersection between celebrity and high design. Hess and Stern selected 24 Modern houses from the Silent Era to today belonging to legends including Groucho Marx, Gary Cooper, Steve McQueen, Frank Sinatra, Faye Dunaway, William Holden, Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz, Charlton Heston, and Marilyn Monroe. Architects represented include Richard Neutra, Frank Lloyd Wright, John Lautner, and Paul R. Williams. Some of these houses projected the glamorous public persona of a great star; some were private hideaways from the pressures of stardom. All are excellent Modern architecture, including three in Palm Springs.
Tickets are $25 and proceeds will benefit the Friends of the Palm Springs Library, a non-profit organization that supports the Library through grants for events and equipment and builds awareness within the community for the Library and its functions.