Modernism is about optimism and progress. It’s about ignoring what something ‘should’ look like in favour of what it does for people. We take a Range Rover into the epicentre of modernism, Palm Springs, to meet the creators still inspired by the 20th century’s most important design philosophy.
“It’s a graced way of being – whether you believe in energy lines or whatever. The Indians knew it. There’s a joyousness here – when you drive in from LA and come round that mountain, all your cares fade away.”
Palm Springs is an oasis in the Californian desert, two hours drive east of Los Angeles, towered over by the 3,302m San Jacinto Mountains. The Cahuilla Indians called it Sec-he, then the Spanish called it Agua Caliente, after the hot water that bubbles up from the San Andreas Fault. Since the late 19th century, Palm Springs has been a resort town, offering an escape from the frenetic sprawl of LA to the clear desert air of the interior. It’s still prolonging affluent lives today. The town and its surrounding area remain a fixture as one of the top retirement destinations in the US and a favourite getaway for those with the luxury of leisure time.
In addition to one of the largest collections of sprightly old-timers in the world, Palm Springs also has the largest collection of mid-century modern architecture in the world. In certain areas, in certain lights, the city’s buildings seem to resemble a modernist utopia, a design for living geared for the elusive leisure-filled lives that the automated modern age promised our grandparents. The Art Museum holds key works by Picasso and Henry Moore donated by the likes of Barbara Sinatra and philanthropist Helene Galen. This is not your average sleepy American desert town.
In the middle of the last century, the area attracted freethinking architects from all over the world who came here attracted by the landscape and the sense of post-war optimism. This was an opportunity to build softer, more liveable versions of the more disciplined European movement from Bauhaus or Le Corbusier. In Palm Springs they could tear up the traditional view of what a house should look like, to construct homes that were simply beautiful in their simplicity.
I’m convinced design has made Land Rover a far more universally appealing brand. It’s about creating an emotional connection.
Good architecture reconciles humanity with nature in an exultant dance of interconnectedness.
WITH ITS DISTINCTIVE SILHOUETTE, THREE CLASSIC LINES AND FLOATING ROOF, RANGE ROVER IS UNMISTAKABLE