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Category Archives: Palm Springs

r lee miller architect

Privacy on a High Level in Homes Built by R. Lee Miller

Hidden in plain sight along a hillside in Palm Springs are rock dwellings otherwise known as Araby Rock Houses, created and built by organic architect R. Lee Miller. Miller liked to build in very difficult places, such as on the side of a mountain. His unique and well-designed structures were remarkable.

Miller built his unique homes in certain secret locations, such as the private community of the Andreas Canyon Club, founded in 1923. These are the “Where’s Waldo” of houses because they are camouflaged by their own surroundings. Miller went on to purchase 330 acres, just above Ramon Road with the intention of building another hillside community there; unfortunately, that plan never came to fruition.  

We know very little about R. Lee Miller. It seems that his architectural creations were a true representation of himself; he hid in plain sight.

Here is what we do know. Robert Lee Miller was born in Hill, Texas in the year 1887. He went on to serve his country in World War I. After he served his country, he trained as a civil engineer; after moving to Palm Springs, Miller took up carpentry and built many homes in the Palm Springs area, including a home for the president of US Steel. Miller also built an adobe and rock home next to the present day Moorten Botanical Garden for actor Reginald Owen. 

The irony is that despite Miller’s prolific work in building homes, he had not had any formal training in architecture. It’s as though he came out of nowhere, created and then just disappeared in plain sight, very much like the houses he built. You can learn more interesting information on early Palm Springs architects by visiting the city of Palm Springs website

From the Factory Floor

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by Gerald Olesker, CEO, ADG Lighting

Hugh Kaptur Architect

Hugh Kaptur and the Palm Springs Desert

In 1962, the public learned of a projected $2,500,000 home development project adjacent to Tamarisk Country Club in Palm Springs. The proposed development was for the construction of 40 homes. Each home would be a distinctive design by Hugh Kaptur, capturing the architectural freedom that the desert offers. That architectural freedom was exactly what the desert offered.

Hugh Kaptur was one of Palm Springs’ most prolific architects and set the tone the architectural design that embodies the region. He was born in 1931 and studied architectural engineering at the Lawrence Institute of Technology. During a visit to Palm Springs in 1956, he made an inspired spur-of-the-moment decision to stay in the region and make it his home. Hugh Kaptur quickly set up shop and set out to make a name for himself and start a career that lasted over 50 years, designing across many typologies from private and multi-family houses, to civic and commercial buildings.

The exuberance of the 1950’s post and beam spilled over into the 1960’s in Palm Springs with the 1970’s evolving into a more masculine forms of design. Influenced by heavier beams, rougher stucco and the simpler carvings of Mexican traditions, the 1970’s Palm Springs designs were highly adapted to the harsh environment and provided the setting for a rougher bachelor lifestyle, epitomized by William Holden, James Dean and Steve McQueen.

Hugh Kaptur brought the development near Tamarisk Country Club to life with his innovative designs, which were within sight of homes of such notables as Frank Sinatra, Groucho Marx, Danny Thomas, Zeppo Marx, Ray Anthony, Hoagy Carmichael and Ellsworth Vines. Word traveled quickly amongst the wealthy Hollywood stars that called Palm Springs home which put Hugh Kaptur and his work in high demand.

His work went on to catch the attention of William Holden (who became fast friends with Kaptur), who wanted a contemporary home and to be able to look over the house and down at the valley. He built the house to exhibit Holden’s extensive art collection and offer strongly delineated exterior spaces. A stunning cantilevered concrete plinth jutted out over the escarpment and made for a dramatic view of the suspended modern sculpture it supported.

Hugh Kaptur would go on to design numerous condominium projects, municipal buildings, fire stations, homes and commercial buildings in Palm Springs, Coachella Valley and beyond.

From the ADG Job Site

Walk the path with the ADG Advantage

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by Gerald Olesker, CEO, ADG

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Palm Springs Modernism Week Is Upon Us

Mark your calendars and start channeling your best ‘Rat Pack’ persona! It is time to make your way into the desert and visit Palm Springs in all its splendor. Palm Springs Modernism Week is scheduled for Feb 14-24, 2019, and this annual event will be bigger than ever.

The goal of this retro adventure in the desert is to foster an appreciation of midcentury modern architecture, design and contemporary innovation. Modernism Week is a registered non-profit organization which encourages the preservation, education, and sustainability of modern living as represented in the Palm Springs area. Some of Palm Springs’ most notable private homes will open their doors to the public, and walking tours will shed light on the city’s Rat Pack history. More than 350 other events in this event will engage and entertain visitors.

Moshe Safdie, CC, FAIA will give the keynote address, and it is not to be missed. He is an Israeli-Canadian architect, urban designer, educator, and theorist. His humanistic philosophy on architecture and urbanism focuses on the design of the public realm and creating buildings that celebrate the unique character of each place. He continues to innovate with groundbreaking projects, such as the Marina Bay Sands Integrated Resort in Singapore’s waterfront district, which includes three 55-story towers connected across their rooftops by a three-acre mixed-use SkyPark.

Along with the house tour and the featured Christopher Kennedy Compound open house,  there will be a vintage trailer show. The show will celebrate the vintage trailer lifestyle and inspire those who dream of channeling their inner wanderlust. There will also be films, lectures, premier double-decker architectural bus tours, nightly parties, and live music, along with walking and bike tours, fashion, classic cars, and modern garden tours.

Palm Springs Modernism Week is an absolute must-do for anyone who is excited by all things midcentury modern. Take a walk back in time, channel your best Rat Pack persona, and plan on attending.

From the Factory Floor

Copper wrap light fixtures for Shaquille O’Neal’s new Downtown LA eatery!

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by Gerald Olesker, CEO, ADG Lighting

southern California, architecture

The Crazy Architecture of Southern California

Southern California is home to the movie capital of the world. Creativity and imagination is what inspires our culture and our economy. The environment of make-believe allows entrepreneurial spirits to create environments and products that allow us to get lost in our imaginations. These inspirations could not be lost on the architectural world in our region. A British traveler noted after a visit to Southern California in the 1930’s that either “we had lost our minds or he had stumbled into a fantasy universe.” So was the influence of mimetic architecture in Southern California.

The practice of mimetic architecture, also known as novelty or programmatic architecture, is a style of building design popularized in the United States in the first half of the 20th century. It is characterized by unusual building designs that mimic the purpose or function of the building, or the product it is associated with. Mimetic architecture was particularly popular between the 1920s and 1950s, as cars became widespread and freeways were built across America. Some roadside architecture started to be seen as a means for advertising to passing cars. For example, a roadside restaurant might be designed in the shape of a giant hot dog, a coffee shop in the shape of a coffee pot, or a fruit stand in the shape of a piece of fruit.

“If, when you went shopping, you found you could buy cakes in a windmill, ices in a gigantic cream-can, flowers in a huge flowerpot, you might begin to wonder whether you had not stepped through a looking glass or taken a toss down a rabbit burrow and could expect Mad Hatter or White Queen to appear round the next corner.”

British tourist visiting LA, 1930’s

From the iconic Brown Derby, to the numerous wigwam hotels that dotted the region, to giant donuts, ice cream and hotdogs, Southern California have been replete with some of the finest examples of mimetic architecture. While none of these buildings were terribly important in the historical value of the region, others were iconic landmarks that will remain etched in our historical memories and evoke the culture and feel of the Southern California lifestyle.

From the ADG Jobsite

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by Gerald Olesker, CEO, ADG Lighting

 

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Flathead Co Whitefish Main Street FLW 8

The Spiteful Destruction of a Frank Lloyd Wright Building

Over two months ago, a real estate developer in Whitefish, Montana, demolished the Lockridge Medical Center. This building was the only structure in the state of Montana designed by Frank Lloyd Wright. This demolition also sets a dubious record as being the only Frank Lloyd Wright building destroyed in over 40 years.

The Lockridge Medical Center was designed by Wright in 1958 for three doctors, T. L. Lockridge, John T. Whalen and Bruce C. McIntyre. The construction on the Lockridge Medical Center started in 1961 and was completed in 1963, long after Wright’s death in 1959. It was occupied by the doctors for only a single year. The 5,000 square foot building was a low, single-story horizontally oriented structure. It was built of brick and cast concrete, which featured Frank Lloyd Wright’s typical horizontally-raked mortar joints, with interior and exterior brick.

The developer who purchased the site in 2016, stated that his vision was to demolish the building and construct a 3-story commercial retail space. At the time of the purchase, they were unaware of the historical significance of the building. Once the information became available to the developer, they were unimpressed with the historical value and pressed on with their plans. The goal of the new commercial space was to capitalize on visitor traffic from the nearby Glacier National Park. Activists and historical preservationists quickly engaged with the developer to halt the development plans, and proceeded to raise $1.7 million to purchase the property. At the end of the day, as pressure built from local and national interests, the developer demolished the property in one overnight event.

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The outcry was swift and loud, causing a significant backlash in the architectural community. In the spirit of the recent Oscar-nominated movie “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri,” a billboard quickly appeared in the town. The billboard attacked the destruction of the historical building and the reprehensible act of the developer. The identity of the person(s) posting the billboard remains unknown. The Frank Lloyd Wright Building Conservancy and the Montana Preservation Alliance, two groups that actively fought to save the structure, have disavowed any knowledge of the posting.

We admire the legacy of Frank Lloyd Wright. We were honored to have worked on the Mat House in Reseda, California, designed by Frank’s son Lloyd Wright and known for its distinctive angular, thatch-like roof. The house was granted historic landmark status in 1996.

From the Showroom Floor

A view from Frog Pad, our newest showroom location in Austin, Texas!

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by Gerald Olesker, CEO, ADG Lighting

Doshi Architect Pritzker Prize Historical

Balkrishna Doshi Recognized For A Lifetime of Social Good

“One is all the time looking at financial returns — that is not only what life is. I think wellness is missing.”

Balkrishna Doshi, Architect

Balkrishna Doshi has become the 45th laureate of architecture’s highest honor, the prestigious Pritzker Prize. He is also the first laureate from India. The Pritzker Prize is bestowed upon a living architect or architects whose work clearly demonstrates talent, vision, and commitment, which has produced significant contributions to humanity and the built environment through the art of architecture.

Mr. Doshi started his architectural career in 1947 at the Sir JJ School of Architecture in Mumbai. During the 1950’s he contributed to the work on Chandigarh, which was an experimental modernist city 150 miles north of New Delhi. He continued his work on the Mill Owners’ Association Building in 1954 and other projects in the Ahmedabad region, to include the Sarabi House in 1955. In 1956, he founded his practice Vastushilpa, which now has five partners and 60 employees. In the early 1960’s, Dr. Doshi worked on the Indian Institute of Management in Ahmedabad, where he was an associate of Louis Kahn for the project. His work has consistently drawn on the grandeur of Indian history and culture, reflecting the essence of local materials, busy city streets and the splendor of Indian shrines and temples. Mr. Doshi has always had a certain vision for his projects. He strongly feels that architecture is not static, but a living organism. Never intended to be iconic structures, his projects were intended to be miniature societies that residents can easily expand over time.

“What is the role of an architect today? Are we going to be a service provider working for a client, or are we going to be useful to the society at large?”

Balkrishna Doshi, Architect

He has been driven by the larger issues of sustainability and social good throughout his career. Mr Doshi feels that today’s architecture is a culture and profession focused strictly on the bottom line of projects. Instead, he feels strongly that architecture should focus on wellness throughout the design. Considerations of living life at your own pace and how we should connect with silence should be incorporated into designs.

The Pritzker jury commented in their citation that housing as shelter is but one aspect of these projects. The entire planning of the community, the scale, the creation of public, semipublic and private spaces are a testament to his understanding of how cities work and the importance of the urban design.