“To be able to work on a museum intended to showcase architecture and design was an exciting prospect. To be able to work on a building by one of our heroes was a dream come true,” architect Leo Marmol, co-founder and principal of Marmol Radziner, says of his firm’s work on the Palm Springs Art Museum‘s new Architecture and Design Center, Edwards Harris Pavilion, in downtown Palm Springs.
The hero in question is E. Stewart Williams, a pioneer of the Desert Modern Style—and the structure is his 1961 Santa Fe Savings & Loan building, purchased by the museum in 2011. “It’s our first stand alone museum project, although we’ve worked on gallery and exhibition spaces before,” explains Marmol. “The fantastic thing about this building is that it’s a classic modern box, with simple, open free space, so the conversion of that to a gallery is fairly seamless.”
Part and parcel of their vision for the museum was to preserve as much of the original character as possible, while making sensitive changes to align it with contemporary building and safety requirements. They managed to preserve and move the remaining louvered screens, so that they work together. Paneling and lighting was kept, as was the door to the vault, which now offers sale space for the museum store. The terrazzo floors sustained heavy damage over the years so had to be replaced in order to provide a seamless, distraction-free home for artwork.
As a fitting tribute to the original architect, the first exhibition hosted in the new digs will pay tribute to Williams.An Eloquent Modernist: E. Stewart Williams, Architect (November 9, 2014 – February 22, 2015), will trace his career from Frank Sinatra’s legendary 1947 residence to his projects into the 1990s.