Civic Buildings

Mid-century/desert modern buildings

It could be said that Palm Springs was ground zero for the rapid emergence of mid-century modern civic architecture in the post-war years.

In few places was the inventive manner in which new building materials and construction techniques put to such extensive use, and by such an accomplished group of architects, as it was on the Palm Springs civic buildings.

Today, these sleek structures still embody the influence they had on the modernist movement more than half a century ago. Corresponding photos are above… click on addresses below for Google Map locations.

Palm Springs City Hall (3200 E. Tahquitz Canyon Way) – Designed by John Porter Clark, Albert Frey, Robson C. Chambers and E. Stewart Williams, circa 1952-1957. Frey’s unusual, yet practical, metal cylinder sun screens are a stand out on this gorgeous building.

Riverside County Courthouse (3255 E. Tahquitz Canyon Way) – Situated directly across the street from City Hall. Designed by John Porter Clark and E. Stewart Williams, circa 1962.

Palm Springs Police Department (3111 E. Tahquitz Canyon Way) – Next door to the courthouse but no longer a police station, it’s currently used as the Rabobank Regional Business Center. Designed by John Porter Clark in 1959.

Department of Motor Vehicles (225 S. El Cielo Road) – Rumor has it that Albert Frey designed this petite structure in 1966, but even though it sports the same distinctive metal sun screen as on his City Hall building, official word is that the architect is unknown. It was re-purposed as a boxing club years ago but currently sits vacant.

Palm Springs International Airport (3400 E. Tahquitz Canyon Way) – Donald Wexler designed this airy and inviting pavilion-like structure in the mid 1960s, and it’s still the most welcoming “jet age” airport we’ve ever had the pleasure of arriving at.

Palm Springs Unified School District (333 S. Farrell Drive) – This low-slung, simple beauty was designed by E. Stewart Williams in 1962 and is located at the busy intersection of E. Baristo Road and S Farrell Drive. In 2015, drought tolerant desert landscaping was added, which makes the structure resonate even more (see photos above).

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