Students and faculty in BCIT’s full-time Interior Design program took the trip of a lifetime recently, heading south to experience Modernism Week, a celebration of mid-century modern design held in Palm Springs each year. The students immersed themselves in the culture and design aesthetic of what is known as Desert Modernism, a movement that emerged during the 1950s in California, and in Palm Springs in particular.
“The trip was taken to further develop the students’ understanding of design history,” said Michelle Lafontaine, Interior Design instructor. “By experiencing the architecture, furnishings, and art pieces first hand, they were able to connect with the material covered in the course on a much deeper level.”
The students’ itinerary included a tour through Park Imperial South Homes, a 30-home development designed by architect Barry Berkus in 1961. Conceived as “resort living at its finest,” the 1,200 square foot attached houses were originally intended to be vacation homes. Most of the residents today, however, live there full time. In keeping with the Palm Springs Historical Society’s mandate for preservation, each home has been meticulously restored and modernized. “Being able to experience [the homes] first hand reaffirmed what I learned in class and gave a third dimension to that knowledge,” said student Kristen Jamieson. “If a picture is worth a thousand words, a live experience is worth millions.”
Armed with a map, the students embarked on a self-guided driving tour through Palm Spring’s older residential neighborhoods, visiting the Kaufmann house, designed by Richard Neutra in 1946.
The class also attended the Modernism Show, which showcased hundreds of exhibits of high-quality mid-centrury modern furniture, artwork, textiles, glass and pottery.
A tired-yet-satisfied group made its way back to the airport, anxious to apply their new ideas to current and future projects. Some students are planning to go to Los Angeles in June to attend another important mid-century modern design show they heard about on this trip.