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Palm Springs Art Museum to unveil new Architecture and Design Center in Nov. 2014
New A+D Center housed in restored midcentury modern bank building designed by noted architect E. Stewart Williams.

PALM SPRINGS, CA.- The Palm Springs Art Museum will open its new Architecture and Design Center, Edwards Harris Pavilion, in downtown Palm Springs on November 9, 2014. The building will be the hub of the museum’s exploration of architecture and design, and will house related exhibitions and educational and community programs, as well as research space and a storage area for the museum’s growing architecture and design collections and archives. The opening exhibition, An Eloquent Modernist, E. Stewart Williams, Architect, will celebrate the accomplishments of Williams, the acclaimed architect who designed the historic building in 1961 to be the Santa Fe Federal Savings & Loan and who was one of the most important architects of the Desert Modern style, developed in and around Palm Springs in the middle of the 20th century.

“Palm Springs has the world’s greatest concentration of midcentury modern architecture, and so it is a natural fit for the Palm Springs Art Museum to increase its commitment to architecture and design through exhibitions, educational programs, and research,” said Dr. Steven A. Nash, the JoAnn McGrath Executive Director of the Palm Springs Art Museum. “It was important to us not only to be a leader in these fields, but also to be able to preserve this important example of Desert Modernism.”

The building, purchased by the museum in 2011, is a classic midcentury International style structure. After changing hands several times, it recently received Class 1 Historic Site protective status. The rehabilitation is being overseen by preeminent Los Angeles architecture firm Marmol Radziner, known for the restoration of the famed Kaufmann House and the Ship of the Desert residence, both in Palm Springs. The firm based its restoration designs on black-and-white photographs of the building taken by Julius Shulman, as well as Williams’ original drawings.

The 13,000 square-foot glass and steel building is elevated above street level, and its ground-level glass pavilion features floor-to-ceiling windows that perfectly frame the cityscape and the surrounding San Jacinto Mountains. The ground level will feature gallery space for architecture and design exhibitions, curatorial offices, and a store located in and around the bank vault, which retains its original door. The basement level will become a study center as well as provide meeting and archive spaces.

Renovations include removing office dividers to create one seamless space, removing carpeting to reveal the original terrazzo floor, and adding sustainable desert landscaping. The museum also added an elevator, restored the perimeter retaining walls, and replaced and restored the movable, anodized aluminum screens original to the east-facing facade.

The Palm Springs Art Museum, which recently celebrated its 75th anniversary, holds major collections of modern and contemporary art, glass, photography, architecture and design, and Native American and Western art. The museum was also designed by E. Stewart Williams in 1976 and expanded in 1996.

Over the last 10 years, the Palm Springs Art Museum has placed a growing emphasis on exhibitions devoted to architecture and design. The museum’s architectural collections (including drawings, photography, and models) are growing rapidly, as highlighted by the recent gift of the large L.J. Cella Collection of drawings, photographs, and objects. The museum also holds significant portions of the Albert Frey, E. Stewart Williams, and Arthur Elrod/Harold Broderick archives. The collection also includes Frey II, the historically significant residence in Palm Springs architect Albert Frey designed for himself and bequeathed to the museum.

“We want to ensure that our growing collection is accessible to architects, scholars, and the general public, and that we have the opportunity to develop more programming focused on architecture and design, including current innovations in these fields,” said Sidney Williams, the museum’s curator of architecture and design. “The new A+D Center provides us with the much needed space for our permanent collection and temporary exhibitions, and the E. Stewart Williams-designed building itself is an important addition to our collection.”

The Palm Springs Art Museum launched a capital campaign in 2011 to raise funds for the purchase and rehabilitation of the A+D Center. Three donors provided the lead gifts for the purchase of the building: Trina Turk and Jonathan Skow, Elizabeth Edwards Harris, and John Boccardo, and to date, more than 100 founding members have each committed $25,000 to support the rehabilitation and initial operations.

J.R. Roberts, former chair of the museum’s Architecture and Design Council and currently a Palm Springs planning commissioner and Vice President of the Palm Springs Modern Committee, has been appointed managing director of the A+D Center.

Opening Exhibition: An Eloquent Modernist, E. Stewart Williams, Architect
The A+D Center’s inaugural exhibition is An Eloquent Modernist: E. Stewart Williams, Architect (November 9, 2014 – February 22, 2015), which will include models, photographs, film clips, original renderings, and drawings to provide a complete view of his 50-year career.

From his first house, the Frank Sinatra Residence, in 1947, to his last projects in the 1990s, Williams designed numerous homes as well as hospitals, schools, colleges, civic buildings, and banks, bringing to each project his careful attention to siting, details, client program, and function. In addition to his architectural practice, he lectured frequently throughout the Coachella Valley and beyond on the need for public understanding of city planning to protect

the environment. He articulated an early awareness of the impact of urban sprawl on traffic, smog, and land use.

The exhibition is accompanied by a fully illustrated catalogue designed by Gary Wexler, with numerous photographs by Julius Shulman and others, and contains essays by Wim de Wit of Stanford University; Lauren Bricker, Ph.D., Cal Poly Pomona; Volker Welter, Ph.D., UC Santa Barbara; Elizabeth Edwards Harris, Ph.D.; Erin Hyman, Ph.D.; and Sidney Williams, curator of architecture and design.

The exhibition is organized by the Palm Springs Art Museum and funded by the Architecture and Design Council, Mark E Pollack, Elizabeth Edwards Harris, Phillips, Richard Lord and Brian Schipper, Roswitha Smale, Brent Harris, Donald Wexler, and J.R. Roberts.

A second exhibition, now in the planning stages for spring 2015, features a collaboration with Andrea Zittel, internationally renowned artist, designer, and environmentalist.

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