adg lighting - architectural detail group

Monthly Archives: September 2019

palm springs pool architecture

Palm Springs Is California’s Hidden Treasure

Once upon a time, Palm Springs attracted two types of visitors. The first group was mostly movie stars and wannabes. The second group consisted of those who desired a healthier way of living, which was due in part because of the location’s mineral springs and their apparent healing properties.

Although Palm Springs past was somewhat unattainable to the average individual who was healthy and wealthy, today’s Palm Springs is attainable to all, and boy does it have a lot of interesting history to offer. Architectural styles anyone?

After World War II, there was a huge construction boom. Since it was known for its wealthy inhabitants, many top architects were attracted to this quiet area hidden in the Coachella Valley. 

By this time, the modernism style of architecture had made its way to the United States and more importantly, had given Southern California architects food for thought and creation.

They were inspired by the Bauhaus approach to design, as well as the International Style of architecture, which had created an elegant yet functional look. This is referred to as desert modernism.

Desert modernism embraces the exterior environment and incorporates its celebration into the architectural design. So in this case, the warm and sunny climate of Palm Springs was welcomed by houses designed with expansive glass walls and huge windows, open floor plans, and of course dramatic roof designs.

When you think about it, it seems that houses were designed to hide from its surroundings, a way to take refuge. But embracing the beautiful surroundings as part of your interior decor seems to bring the genius of this style into the spotlight.

Every year, Palm Springs holds Modernism Week, which celebrates the countless mid-century modern houses in Palm Springs. It is worth the trip and find yourself exploring the historical architecture and culture. 

From the Factory Floor

…Brass Balls

kinetic chandelier

by Gerald Olesker, CEO ADG Lighting





Modernist Architects Arthur Fehr and Charles Granger

It was as though both Arthur Fehr and Charles Granger were sent here in 1946 from the future on a time travel mission to make their impact on the industry of architecture and design! Although they were two separate men walking their path of education and experience in the same industry, it wasn’t until 1946 when they became partners and established Fehr & Granger (F&G) in Austin, Texas that they experienced great success.

Their designs would captivate many and move the industry into the era of mid-century modernism. Post-World War ll was a time for new economic growth and opportunities, which helped pave the way for modern (or more commonly known as modernist architecture). Modernist architecture followed the belief that “form should follow function.” This style of architecture also gave birth to new innovative construction and use of glass, steel, and reinforced concrete as building materials of choice.

Fehr & Granger labeled themselves as Austin modernists, and rightfully so as they were instrumental in designing some of the most important buildings in and around Austin, staying with their progressive, modernist style. Some of their most notable accomplishments in both residential and commercial architecture include:

  • Sneed Residence in Austin (circa 1953)
  • O. Henry Junior High School Austin (1954)
  • Saint Stephen’s Chapel Austin (1955) 
  • Clifton Hall at Texas Lutheran College in Seguin (1956)
  • Robert Mueller Airport (1959)
  • Austin National Bank (1961)

Charles Granger died in a car accident in 1966, so Arthur Fehr held down the fort at F&G until his death in 1969.

The firm of F&G received many awards over the years for their designs, including two separate awards for their design of the Robert Mueller Airport, in 1959 and in 1961. 

Charles also built the Granger House and The Perch, a pair of historic homes in Austin, in 1951. Both homes were both recorded on the National Register of Historic Places. Not bad for a modernist. 


Sydney Harbor Cityscape

The Story Behind the Design of the Sydney Harbor Bridge

The Sydney Harbor Bridge is located in Sydney, Australia. On March 19, 2007, the bridge was added to the Australian National Heritage List, giving the bridge historical significance. The SHB opened and was ready for business on March 19, 1932. It is considered to be the world’s tallest steel arched bridge, erected at 440 feet tall and is one of Australia’s quintessential landmarks. 

The bridge was originally designed by Scottish-born architect Thomas S. Tait, who designed buildings around the world and was a big proponent of Art Deco and Streamline Moderne styles. He designed it along with Dorman Long & Company. Other architects who were in the running for designing this iconic bridge include:

Norman Selfe: Australian-born engineer, naval architect, and urban planner. Selfe had entered a cantilever bridge design, but due to a downfall in the economy, it didn’t make the cut.

Francis Ernest Stowe: English-born architect, engineer, and inventor. His idea of a three-way design was considered radical. There were other implications that made this design undesirable for that time in history. 

Peter Henderson: This Sydney engineer submitted one of the earliest known drawings of the bridge connecting Sydney with north and south. It was a simple, straight across type of design.

David B. Steinman & Holton D. Robinson: Both are American architects; they submitted a design that mixed elements of cantilever and suspension engineering. The panel of judges did not like the design; they said it ”would not have a pleasing outline.”

McClintic Marshall Products Company: This company in 1924 proposed a design that incorporated elements of a cantilever bridge, suspension bridge, and the arch bridge, but the judges said that it “wouldn’t harmonize with its surroundings.”

The purpose of a bridge is simple; it connects an island to the mainland. The bridge is able to bypass the greatest obstacle between that island and the mainland, which is a body of water. It does this by simply taking up residency as the upstairs; but for us mere mortals, it must be perfectly designed.



No, Not Google, It Is Googie Architecture

You’ve seen this futuristic, nostalgic type of architecture which was originally conceived in the 1930’s and referred to as Streamline Moderne. Streamline Moderne was a type of international art deco which got its inspiration from aerodynamic as well as nautical influences. 

Once upon a time, this type of architecture graced our coffee shops, carwashes, and gas stations. It emphasized the promise of an exciting future and a taste of things to come. Unfortunately, this too came to an end as many buildings that were designed in this style have been demolished, and as an architectural style haven’t been taken seriously. Or, is that about to change?

This type of architecture went on to become very popular from the mid-late 1940s through the mid-1960s. Since our conception of the future wasn’t as advanced as actually going into the future, many of the influences were the cars, jets, and the existing science fiction of post-war America. Many who are familiar with the cartoon show “The Jetsons” have already seen a classic examples of Googie architecture. 

The term Googie was taken from a coffee shop by the same name, designed by architect John Lautner in 1949, located on Sunset Blvd in Hollywood. 

Googie architecture style became part of America’s pop culture. It was exciting because it was what Americans saw as living in the future now. Alan Hess, an architect who has written extensively on mid-century architecture, has made reference that in many ways Googie architecture delivered the grand promises of modern architecture. He said, “They were populist, employed new materials, and captured their purpose, place, and culture as vividly as any great architectural style.” He is an advocate for twentieth-century architectural preservation.

Hess wrote defending the idea of a McDonald’s in Downey being a historic landmark:

“How? It’s a design that’s inseparable from its time, place and people. That’s what really good architecture is.” As a true advocate, Alan Hess has both foresight and hindsight. 

Check out some Googie architecture.

Credit: Blog images Architectural Digest