Before there was Desert Modernism, there was the primal California desert — millions of acres of it, containing a mesmerizing combination of (to quote lyricist Dewey Bunnell) plants and birds and rocks and things. It’s good to remember this as thousands of Midcentury design fans gather Feb. 15-25 in and near Palm Springs for Modernism Week.
They’ll be oohing and awing at swooping roofs and clerestory windows, and you can’t blame them. It’s fascinating to see the loving restoration of the sleek structures that flourished here after World War II and before Bunnell and his band America released the single “A Horse With No Name” (1971).
But as these locations from our California Bucket List demonstrate, this desert is much more than a blank canvas. It’s home to strange species (including concrete dinosaurs), a lab for science projects (including the Integratron), a haven for visionaries (perhaps you) and a repository for some of the least overpriced real estate in Southern California.
So whether you’re a Modernist pilgrim or you just want a good look around before the summer heat arrives, here's a 12-stop desertification program. It starts with bold buildings, then veers into the outback. Don’t forget the shade hat, water bottles and sunscreen.