ModernismProject Architecture Challenge Winner: Yutsai Wang

Salk Institute by Yutsai Wang

The #ModernismProject‘s first photo challenge to capture images of modernist architecture was truly a global competition.  We received over 400 stunning submissions from roving Instagrammers around the world.  From Albania and Israel to Mexico City, Paris, Milan, and Georgia (the state, not the country).  The editorial team at Archilovers painstakingly reviewed each and every entry before coming to a unanimous decision.  The winner of the first #ModernismProject #architecture challenge is Yutsai Wong, a Los Angeles-based architectural photographer.

In the words of the editorial team at Archilovers:

“After some soul-searching and fruitful discussions amongst our editorial office, we have finally come to our decision and we have chosen the “salk institute” by Yutsai as the first winner of the modernism project photo challenge.  We chose the photo because in our opinion it is the one which best embodies the tenets of modernist architecture: adherence to logic, rationality and rhythm. The building’s symmmetrical form which symbolises precision, but also the open spaces symbolising an openness to creation. The function and utility of this building with research into “modern” diseases like AIDS, Alzheimer’s, and cancer.   The photographer has managed to capture modernism in his photo which shows the material honesty, the symmetry and openess of Louis Kahn’s architecture.”

Read more from Archilovers here.

Follow @Yutsai on Instagram to see more of his work.  Yutsai will receive a pair of tickets to the Modernism Week Home Tour.

Thank you to everyone who participated, and especially to our guest judges, the amazing and insightful editorial team at Archilovers!  Please keep playing along and sending in photos from around the globe!  Stay tuned for the next challenge which will be announced on October 25th with special guest judge Jaime Derringer from Design Milk.

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House of the Future Past

Disneyland Montsanto House of the Future, Yesterland

While we wait for the results of the first ModernismProject photo challenge on architecture, we figured we’d share this blast from the past.  One of our Facebook friends posted this on our page this week and we couldn’t help but share it again.  Check out Monsanto‘s incredible House of the Future which lived in Disneyland‘s Yesterland from 1957 to 1967.  The four-lobed raised home was entirely built out of plastic and meant to be a living demonstration of style and technology.  It was apparently nearly indestructible.  When demolition day finally came in 1967, the wrecking ball literally bounced off the walls.  Workers were forced to take hacksaws to it in order to remove the suspended structure, which was designed by San Diego-based architect Vincent Bonini.

Montsanto House of the Future
This house portrayed the projected living environment of 1986.  Among the interesting features; dishwashing with ultra sonic waves, the smell of roses released into a room with your heat, closets full of polyester clothing, an experimental microwave oven, and tons of other displays of the various ways that plastics could be employed throughout the home.

Clearly, what was modern then is not modern now but has our vision of the future been clarified or clouded with the passage of time?  What’s really next?  We’d love to hear your thoughts.

Photos via The World is Our Oyster, Yesterland, and Private Stock Brand.

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#ModernismProject > Challenge No. 1 > ARCHITECTURE > Special Guest Judge Archilovers

Palm Springs Modernism Week is thrilled to announce the launch of #ModernismProject, our first-ever mobile initiative to encourage the global community of modernism fans to express visually what modernism means to them.  The theme of our first challenge is…..#ARCHITECTURE.

Go forth and capture images of any built structures that exhibit the tenets of modernism – function and utility, abstract beauty, sculptural form, symbolism, honesty in materials, use of modern materials and technology.  It could be a building, a room, a shack, a facade, an outhouse, a play house, any kind of structure.  We just want to see what modernist architecture means to you, today.

And without any further adieu, please meet our special guest judge for this challenge: Bari, Italy-based Archilovers.  You may recognize their signature hot pink heart.  These folks truly *heart* architecture and they know it inside out and around the globe.  It’s precisely because they have such a diverse perspective that Modernism Week has asked Archilovers to be our special guest for this enormous challenge.  Their entire editorial team will be on hand to review submissions.

Archilovers, architecture, buildings, modern architecture

Archilovers is the first true professional network for architects, designers and lovers of architecture from all over the world. It is an international and totally free platform with boundless space, where you can post projects, get to know designers and architects and create your own professional network. The big news, which makes Archilovers unique, is its use of “product tagging” to indicate objects and not people. For the first time you can tag the materials and furnishing objects used, in the project photos, by retrieving them from the database.

The editorial office of the network comprises 15 architects, interior designers and journalists with over a decade of experience in the sector, whose job is to report the latest news from the world of architecture and design and to scour the thousands of projects we receive daily from architects and architectural offices all over the world, selecting those which catch the eye with something new and innovative to offer.  With their keen eye for progressive and stunning design, Archilovers is the perfect judge for this first, exciting, and wide-reaching challenge.

So get ready, set, and shoot!

Twice a month (between now and February), we’ll be issuing a new “challenge” or prompt.  Participants are encouraged to submit as many photos as they like.  An amazing panel of special guest judges will review all the submissions and pick a lucky winner in each category.  Those lucky winners will receive tickets to Modernism Week or a print from the MODSHOP.

To participate in the #Architecture challenge, just follow modernism_week on Instagram and be ABSOLUTELY sure to tag your photos #ModernismProject and #architecture.  More on the rules and regulations here.  Contest begins at 12:01am PST on Thursday, October 11th and ends at 11:59pm PST on Monday, October 15th.  The winner will be announced October 17th.

Tell us what you think!

Photo by Eric Hauser

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Steel Modern – The History of Steel Houses in Palm Springs

KCET, steel construction, Donald Wexler, Modernism Week

The gorgeous Donald Wexler-designed Steel Houses are a popular stop on the DOCOMOMO bus tour this weekend.  Steel allowed Wexler to open up spaces and create the floating expanses of glass that make these homes so remarkable.  Of the 38 homes that were part of the original master plan by Wexler & Harrison, only 7 were constructed.  But each of them has been designated Class1 Historic Sites by the Palm Springs Historic Site Preservation Board. To understand more about the history, and the future, of steel construction in the desert, check out this amazing retrospective on steel construction on KCET.

This great video by Design on Screen also highlights what exactly is so special about the Wexler Steel Houses.

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Foto Find: Sam Sefton

Our next Foto Find hails from the Motor City, Detroit, Michigan. Besides being a creative director in the advertising industry, Sam Sefton is also a prolific contributor to iStock photo with over 10,000 downloads.  He also shoots for Air BnB.  When he’s not working on the latest campaign or gathering visual content for iStock, he shoots his travels.  And we found his fresh perspective on Palm Springs to be captivating.  He hasn’t been to Modernism Week yet, but we hope to see him in 2013.

More about Sam Sefton:

What’s your favorite aspect of Palm Springs?

The modern architecture of Palm Springs inspired me to take photographs there, but honestly, I found that I loved everything about the place. It has such a great tradition of style, leisure and fun. There is something very quixotic about Palm Springs. With my Midwestern roots, I found myself romanticizing the idea of Hollywood stars whisking off to this desert oasis for the weekend. Playing golf and tennis. And hanging out in “Desert Modern” hotels and spas. There is something in the air in Palm Springs. A certain atmosphere. It was mostly sunny when I photographed there. But it also rained a bit. Which was great. I tend to go for drama when I shoot and process, even with the simplest of subject matters. The large clouds really made the skies dramatic and heightened the overall look. I often use a flash when there are dark skies in the background. That gives a surreal quality to the light and an odd but rather purposeful contrast. Regarding architecture, the lines, circles and angles of Palm Springs buildings also add to drama. I like the way a modernist building can be cropped to place emphasis on positive and negative spaces. The geometric play makes for extremely interesting compositions. Often, less is more. Just like with modernism. And that’s where the architecture of Palm Springs really comes shining through.
What do you like to shoot and why?
Photography has been a passion of mine ever since I received an unexpected holiday gift from my parents: a Canon AE-1. I like to shoot a variety of subjects. And no pun intended, I really like the focus that’s required of photography. You can get lost in a certain kind of zone where everything else just falls away. I find that very relaxing. To this day, photography is a great creative outlet for me. I work full-time at an advertising agency, which can be a very collaborative process. It takes a lot of people to develop and make a TV commercial. But it only takes one person to take a great photo. So when I am ready to take a break from the collaborative creative effort, photography is my gateway. And because of that, most of my work would probably be considered personal or art. I recently started photographing for Airbnb. Which is great because it is architectural in nature but you still meet some really interesting people along the way. I am waiting for my first really cool modernist interior. Hopefully that will be soon.
What does modernism mean to you? 
To me, modernism is a powerful combination of art, style and design. It embraces simplicity and discipline. Modernism is not afraid of being bold. It is a testament to forward thinking. I live relatively close to the Cranbrook School and campus in suburban Detroit. Cranbrook has a rich tradition of modernism with Charles and Ray Eames and their mid century furniture design. The Cranbrook Art Museum is also very modern in appearance. In addition to places like Cranbrook, the automotive industry in Detroit also adds a kind of cool industrial vibe to the entire art community. Almost everything in this area is touched by cars in some way or another. One of my favorite finds at modernist shows are 1960’s era illustrations of concept cars. And of course, there is modernist influence in certain car designs. I recently bought a Fiat. Part of my attraction to the car was its simple, almost Art Deco design. I photographed the Fiat outside the Cranbrook Art Museum and the contrast of the Fiat’s simple round shapes against the Museum’s stark architecture was very dramatic. Round lines and straight lines. I like finding modernism in the everyday. The Kmart Corporation was based in Michigan (The 1960’s era logo was modern and fantastic.) And although I rarely went to a Kmart store, I did go to their corporate headquarters for their moving sale (when they merged with Sears.) It was cool but a little sad. Modern furniture was everywhere. Chairs. Desks. Lamps. I’m still a proud owner of two orange Steelcase chairs from Kmart’s worldwide headquarters. I can only imagine 1960’s sharp-dressed executives sitting in them as they smiled at rising sales charts.
To see more of Sam’s work, check him out iStock and follow him on Flickr.
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DOCOMOMO Architectural Bus Tour Highlight: Coachella Valley Savings #2

Darren Bradley

With just a few scant days left to buy tickets for the DOCOMOMO Architectural Bus Tours this weekend, we thought we’d bring you one last preview to whet your architectural appetite.  The renowned midcentury architects of Palm Springs did not limit their work to designing dream houses for the likes of Old Blue Eyes and other movies stars exclusively.  They thankfully accepted a variety of commissions, designing more mundane buildings for  a growing city with more needs for gas stations, schools, churches, government buildings, and retails stores.  The result is that today, Palm Springs is a desert oasis full of unexpected gems.

The Coachella Valley Savings and Loan #2building located at 499 S. Palm Canyon Drive stands out as one of these gems; a true landmark of mid-century architecture.  Designed by E. Stewart Williams in 1960, the building is now occupied by Chase.  But far from being a ubiquitous bank building, #2 stuns with its dramatic inverted arches.  This distinguished building is probably one of the most-photographed banks in the country and at the time of its construction, when pent-up consumer demand was fueling exceptionally strong economic growth in a post war period, the building’s regal facade and imposing profile inspired confidence and optimism.

As an interesting side note, the Santa Fe Federal Savings and Loan building, which was also designed by E. Stewart Williams and lay vacant for many years, will also soon experience a second life.  The Palm Springs Art Museum has announced that it will be transforming the building into the Palm Springs Art Museum’s Edwards Harris Center for Architecture and Design, with the help of LA architects Marmol + Radziner (who are no strangers to restoring midcentury Palm Springs architecture).  The Architecture and Design Center hopes to open its doors in early 2014.

To see these and other amazing commercial and civic architectural landmarks, don’t miss the bus tour this weekend.  There are still a few spots left.  But don’t forget to wear a wide-brimmed hat!

Photo by Darren Bradley

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Foto Find: Eric Hauser AKA The Vermodernist

Photographer Eric Hauser‘s job is to eternalize moments of love, as a wedding photographer, so it’s no surprise that his photos of mid-century architecture exhibit such color and warmth. He and his wife Jen LiMarzi live in Winooski, Vermont. Together, they run an online vintage eyewear shop ( and write occasional posts on their Vermont-focused mod- and retro-culture blog,  The bespectacled pair will be returning to Palm Springs in 2013 to capture more images through their vermodernist lens.

Eric Hauser Photography

When did you come to Palm Springs Modernism Week?  Or how many times have you been?

 My wife and I first came to Modernism Week in 2011, and we’re coming back in 2013. We live in Vermont, so heading to sunny and warm Palm Springs in February is the perfect getaway from Vermont’s winter doldrums. It’s also a wonderful change of scenery from Vermont – the different landscape, as well as the different style of architecture, are welcome variations from our day to day surroundings in our part of the country.

What’s your favorite aspect of Palm Springs Modernism Week?

 In 2011 we did the tour of the Frank Sinatra house, which was fantastic. It’s great to have the opportunity to step behind what are usually closed doors and have a look around, especially in a home with so much history. We also loved just being in Palm Springs that week, with all the energy associated with Modernism Week – the art, the cocktail parties, restaurants, and people all had a wonderful vitality that was refreshing and exciting.

What do you like to shoot and why?

I’m a wedding photographer ( but when I’m not shooting weddings I’ve always loved to take pictures of old buildings. Over the last few years as I’ve become more aware of and interested in midcentury period architecture, I’ve tried to seek out buildings from that period – of which there areprecious few in Vermont! So when we first drove into Palm Springs on our first visit there, I couldn’t believe my eyes – one midcentury gem after another.

What does modernism mean to you?

What I appreciate most about midcentury modernist architecture and style is how forward-thinking it was for its time, and how well the style has held up to this day. It was an era where designers took chances and re-imagined what the future would look like. It’s such a contrast compared with many homes (and cars and clothes …) that were built or made in the last 20 years – most of which display little character or imagination. I’m also a hopelessly nostalgic person, so when I see architecture or cars or fashion from the 1940s – 1960s it makes me fantasize of a different era in our history when people dressed up a little bit more, entertained more frequently, knew who their neighbors were, and cared just as much about the way things looked as they did about how well they functioned. Obviously it’s easy to over-romanticize that time period, and I know everything was certainly not perfect. But that time period had such great style!

Follow him on Twitter @vermodernist or check out his Flickr stream.

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DOCOMOMO Architectural Bus Tour Highlight: Kaufmann Residence

Kaufmann Residence, Palm Springs Modernism Week

The iconic Kaufmann Residence is THE house that kickstarted the whole movement to restore and revive mid-century architecture in Palm Springs; the very house that may have single-handedly transformed Palm Springs from a recreational haven into an architectural-cultural destination.  Built in 1946 by architect Richard Neutra, this unforgettable residence was photographed by Julius Shulman and enjoyed almost 20 years of notoriety before settling into obscurity in 1970, around the time of Neutra’s death.  In 1993, it was purchased by Beth and Brent Harris and restored to its former splendor by Leo Marmol and Ron Radziner.   Since their restoration of the house (completed in 1995) there have been close to 275 articles about the house.

For anyone thinking of joining Palm Springs Modernism Week for the DOCOMOMO Architectural Bus Tours, October 5th through 8th, it’s definitely worth reading up on the hidden history of this iconic house to better understand the entire cast of characters who have all played a part in this 65-year love story.  When you pull up in front of 470 West Vista Chino, you’ll feel like part of the story yourself.

Here are just a few amazing photographs of the Kaufmann Residence from across the years.

This is the view that most of us have seen before.

Photo by Patrick McGrew

An iconic image from back in the day, exhibited last year as part of the Backyard Oasis exhibition at the Palm Springs Art Museum curated by Daniell Cornell.

Famous image from the Backyard Oasis Exhibition in 2012

The Kaufmann House always has and always will make a beguiling backdrop for fashion shoots.  Here it is featured in a recent J.Crew catalog.

A beautiful shot of a poolside party in 1970 by Slim Aarons.

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Future Perfect: Midcentury Modern Architecture Re-imagined by Artist Danny Heller

Artist Danny Heller is living proof that modernism is a timeless and universal concept.  Born in 1982, he’s doesn’t exactly fit the archetype for a fan of modernism.  But then again, is there such a thing?  Heller hunts for the perfect shot of midcentury modern homes and other interesting landmarks in places like sun-baked Palm Springs, then returns to his Silver Lake studio where he makes unforgettable paintings of Southern California landscape and the buildings that embody the Southern California lifestyle.  His paintings are at once bright and bittersweet.  Bright colors and golden light belie a sadness for a bygone time and lofty notions for a future that remains unfulfilled.

Heller represents exactly what we love about the spirit of Palm Springs Modernism Week.  A new generation of modernists are coming up with their own perspective on what modernism meant, and what it could mean in the future.  He paints yesterday, today.  How fantastic is that?

We’re not the only ones who wax poetic about his work.  Check out this recent story on KCET’s Artbound to learn more about Heller, his paintings, and his perspective.  Also, be sure to VOTE HERE  to see this story turned into a short documentary on KCET.

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Foto Find: Darren Bradley Photography

We’ve discovered over the years that Palm Springs Modernism Week is hot destination for amateur and professional photographers alike.  A few minutes surfing Google or Flickr brings up stunning images of Modernism Week events, places, and people; all seen through the lens of different individual artists with their own perspective, spin, and style.  To celebrate this stunning visual diversity, we’re instituting a weekly Foto Find.  Each week we’ll share with you a selection of work by one of our latest and greatest photographic finds and a chance to learn a bit more about the artist behind the lens.

Our first-ever Foto Find is San Diego-based photographer Darren Bradley (the dapper gent in the chair).  A self described francophile, design nut, and accidental tourist, Darren and his wife have been coming to Palm Springs Modernism for several years.


MW: When did you come to Palm Springs Modernism Week?  Or how many times have you been?
DB: My wife and I have been coming to Palm Springs since before Modernism Week existed, I think. We first rented a house here in 1999 – an Alexander in Las Palmas designed by William Krisel. That was our first taste and we loved it. I live in San Diego, so Palm Springs is an easy trip for me and I come up several times a year, at least. I remember when Modernism Week was more of a weekend, and just really a show. It’s amazing how it’s grown. We’ve missed a year here or there, but we’ve been to most since it started.
MW: What’s your favorite aspect of Palm Springs Modernism Week?
DB: Love the house tours the most and the generosity of home owners to open up their homes like that. It’s just amazing. Also, we’ve developed a lot of good friendships over the years of people that we see during the show and it’s become a bit of a reunion for us. Also a great opportunity to make new friends and meet lots of interesting people.
MW: What do you like to shoot and why?
DB: I love modern architecture, first and foremost. I learned photography in high school and college, working for my school newspaper and as a darkroom assistant (back in the film days!). But I’d pretty much abandoned photography and hadn’t picked up a camera in over ten years when I started documenting all these mid-century modern treasures that I was seeing. I originally wanted to just document them before they disappeared. But slowly, I started to want to take better photos because I wanted to get people to appreciate these treasures – to see in them what I loved. I hoped that way, more people would want to save them. So I’ve become a sort of guerilla architectural photographer… shooting projects quickly and candidly on the run. I envy professionals who get complete access to buildings, are able to light them properly, scout them out ahead of time, shoot at the ideal time of day, not get chased by security guards, etc…  Most of the time, I don’t have those luxuries. But I try to make the most of whatever situation I’m faced with to get a good shot and show the personality of the building – what makes it so unique and special.  In Palm Springs, there’s just so much to photograph. And what’s nice here is that most people are very generous on the house tours about allowing photography. It’s just something that I do for fun, of course. Taking photos of these beautiful places allows me to see them differently than if I didn’t have my camera with me.
MW: What does modernism mean to you? 
DB: Modernism conveys a sense of optimism about society and the world that is so lacking today. It’s the last truly original style before the mainstream of America just sort of retrenched into a kind of ersatz pseudo-historical style… Now, most tract homes are faux Tuscan or Colonial. It seems like we’ve lost not only our sense of optimism, but also our sense of imagination. Modernism, to me, represents that last time in our history when the majority of our society was willing to take risks and just relax and have fun. What I love most about modernist architecture is the glass walls… the openness… the use of outdoor spaces.

Here are just a few of his favorite shots.  Enjoy!

Follow him on Twitter @ChimayBleueSD or check out his Flickr stream.

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