William Krisel’s Palm Springs

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Corrine Krisel and Twin Palms tract house (1957). Photograph by Julius Schulman. Getty Research Institute, Los Angeles (2004.R.10). Copyright J. Paul Getty Trust.

I recently bought this book as I was already a fan of Midcentury Modern design, and of the photographer, Darren Bradley, who contributed many fantastic images to the publication.

I admit that, prior to reading, I was unfamiliar with the life and works of the prolific architect and landscape designer William Krisel, on whom the book is based.

Krisel’s professional career has extended from the 1950s onwards and during that time it is estimated that he has designed more than 30,000 homes in Southern California including Palm Springs and the Coachella Valley.

Part of Krisel’s genius, in my opinion, is that he has been able to take relatively similar designs and modify them in such a way as to make neighbouring homes appear unique through the use of different roofing styles, colour schemes, landscapes and building orientations. This is particularly significant given that Krisel’s focus was mainly on so called “tract” homes built on estates.

Prior to Krisel, such estates would have been created with “cookie-cutter” homes: rows upon rows of the same repetitive and monotonous buildings. Krisel broke that mould. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the Sandpiper estate of Palm Desert. These homes were arranged in a circle around a central pool area. Very communal. However each of the properties was still able to retain its own privacy.

Modernism is a philosophy that creates a better way of living through design. It improves one’s appreciation of design and ecology.

– William Krisel

The images throughout the book are provided by a number of photographers. In particular I’m drawn to the “old” versus the “new” images of Southern California.

The historical images were mostly created by, the now late, Julius Shulman. Many of the modern images were provided by the equally talented Darren Bradley. Whilst the Shulman images mainly capture the scenes in his signature black and white style, Bradley’s are bright, vivid and beautifully contrasted.

William Krisel’s Palm Springs – The Language of Modernism was edited by Chris Menrad and Heidi Creighton, both enthusiastic followers of Modernism. Other individuals have contributed photographs, chapters, anecdotes and interviews to the book which ultimately provides a wonderful insight into the life of this pioneer, who is truly under-appreciated outwith Southern California.

ISBN Number: 978-1-4236-4232-9

Published date: 2016

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