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04 Feb 2015

Your Neighbors' Digs: Tour Your Town During Modernism Week

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Tickets remained for the Vista Las Palmas neighborhood tour as of our press time. Tickets remained for the Vista Las Palmas neighborhood tour as of our press time. Jim Schnepf/Vista Las Palmas Neighborhood Organization via ModernismWeek.com

When it comes to Modernism Week’s various tours, there’s good news, and there’s bad news.

The good news: This year’s 10th-anniversary edition of Modernism Week features more tours than ever before. Mark Davis, the treasurer of Modernism Week’s board of directors (and Modernism Week’s unofficial tour guru), said that more than 20 neighborhood tours are being offered in 2015. That’s up from nine in 2014.

The bad news: A lot of these tours are already sold out. In other words, if you’re interested in learning more about the unique and groundbreaking architecture of the Coachella Valley, you’d better head to modernismweek.com and get your tickets now.

The speedy ticket sales are a testament to the fact that midcentury modern architecture is as popular as it’s ever been (or, well, at least more popular than it’s been since the actual midcentury modern era of the 1950s and ’60s).

“During the sad years, people didn’t appreciate what (midcentury architecture) was,” said Davis, who fell in love with Palm Springs and its architecture when he started coming to the area in 1996. “Now, many of these places are being restored.”

In fact, it’s because of Modernism Week and all of these ticket sales that many structures and landscapes are being restored to their original glory: Modernism Week is a nonprofit which turns the money from these tours over to various neighborhoods.

“Last year, $240,000 went right back to neighborhood groups” from ticket sales, he said. “This year, it should be about $500,000. That’s cold, hard cash going back to the community.”

About which tours is Davis most excited? He mentioned a tour of midcentury modern homes in Indian Wells, of all places, adding that he’s been working on it since last August.

Then, alas, he said the tour had quickly sold out.

“We realized, ‘Hey, people really want to see new things,” he said.

Next, he mentioned a tour that, as of this writing, is not completely sold out: a walking tour of the Vista Las Palmas neighborhood, known as the “Rat Pack playground.”

“It’s such a beautiful neighborhood, and it’s mostly intact,” he said.

Finally, he mentioned another new tour, of the 1947 Trousdale homes of Tahquitz River Estates. As of this writing, tickets ($65) remained for this one-time tour, starting at 9 a.m. on Saturday, Feb. 21.

“These were the most modern, current homes you could find anywhere,” he said about these 68-year-old Trousdales. (Similar homes can be found in the Trousdale Estates portion of Beverly Hills, FYI.)

Now, if you’re not already a fan of architecture or the modernism movement, you may be asking yourself something to the effect of: Why should I care about a bunch of old, albeit really nice, houses? If that’s the case, Davis said you should consider a neighborhood tour anyway.

“Not everyone cares for (modernism), but I can’t tell you how many people, including personal friends, who have had no interest in midcentury modern architecture whatsoever, go on a tour … and fall completely in love with it,” he said.

Davis, who moved to Palm Springs after 30 years in the travel industry, speaks with a fervent passion for architecture; in part, he credits his upbringing near the architectural haven of Chicago for sparking that interest. He said he hopes locals and visitors alike can find something within Modernism Week to enjoy. Besides the tours, he gave a special shout-out to the 30 or so Modernism Week lectures—which, unlike many tours, don’t tend to sell out.

“It’s exciting to me,” he said about Modernism Week.

Modernism Week takes place Thursday, Feb. 12, through Sunday, Feb. 22. Ticket prices for the tours, lectures and other events vary. For tickets or more information, including a complete and up-to-date schedule, visit modernismweek.com.

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