Last weekend I made a quick trip to Palm Springs for Modernism Week and had the opportunity to tour the new Architecture and Design Center, Edwards Harris Pavilion, with curator Sidney Williams. She is also the daughter-in-law of E. Stewart Williams, the architect of the midcentury modern building the new center occupies.
The glass-and-steel building, which has a flat roof with deep overhangs, was completed in 1960 to house the Santa Fe Federal Savings & Loan bank. Following a period of vacancy, it was recently restored by Los Angeles–based firm Marmol Radziner, which has completed many restoration projects in the Palm Springs area including Richard Neutra’s Kauffman House.
E. Stewart Williams (1909–2005), working with his brother and father in the firm Williams, Williams, and Williams (or as locals called it, “Williams Cubed”), had a strong role in the development of modern architecture in Palm Springs. Williams designed many residences, museums, and commercial buildings in the region, including a house for Frank Sinatra, the Edris House, and the main building of the Palm Springs Art Museum.
Marmol Radziner’s restoration of the 13,000-square-foot former bank into the new Architecture and Design Center maintained its midcentury modern integrity. The firm used Williams’ original drawings as a guide, as well as black-and-white photographs by Julius Shulman. The custom anodized aluminum brise soliels on the building’s exterior were restored. Inside, evidence of the building’s previous life as a bank has been preserved, including the vault, which is now part of the gift shop, and the drive-up teller window.
New terrazzo floors were installed to replace portions of the original floor that had been damaged. A new ceiling system accommodates flexible lighting for gallery displays. A few subtle upgrades were made to bring the building up to modern code, including new glass guardrails installed behind the existing extruded aluminum stair rails, as well as a new elevator.
The Architecture and Design Center opened last fall with the exhibition “An Eloquent Modernist: E. Stewart Williams, Architect.” Curated by Williams, it features drawings, renderings, watercolors, and etchings by the architect and models, photographs, and film clips of his work. The exhibition is on view through this Sunday, February 22—the conclusion of Modernism Week. The center’s next show will feature works by artist Andrea Zittel.