Remembering California Architect William Krisel (1924-2017)

Palm Springs and architecture fans the world over say goodbye to the Maestro of Mid-Century Modernism.

It’s difficult to picture Palm Springs without its iconic mid-century modern architecture. Maybe that’s why it’s equally difficult to imagine Palm Springs without iconic architect William Krisel. He died this past Monday at the age of 92.

Coachella and Stagecoach aside, Palm Springs can attribute its recent renaissance to a feverish passion for all things mid-century, especially homes, something Krisel was instrumental in creating back in the 1950s.

Like much of the new constriction in post-WWII California, tract homes provided easy and affordable options for raising the baby boom generation. While many of these structures blend into the suburban landscape, Krisel’s stand out from the crowd. He incorporated modern features—such as butterfly roofs, open floor plans and clerestory windows—for optimal lighting and space. He changed up color palettes and rooflines so no two homes on the block were alike. His well-known work with the Alexander Building Co. in the late ’50s and early ’60s produced neighborhood after neighborhood of middle-class homes that remain highly coveted today.

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Krisel told NPR that in the late 1950s, buyers could purchase one of his small homes on “a 100 x 100 lot, all fenced in, landscaped, modern design, air condition, swimming pool—all for $29,900.”

His impact on Palm Springs alone is so tremendous, they renamed a street after him. According to the Getty Research Institute, which archives Krisel’s work, the architect’s designs were the foundation for more than 40,000 homes.

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To read NPR’s complete tribute to Krisel, visit www.npr.org

—Darren Elms

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