Palm Springs Art Museum Snags Bank Building

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Santa Fe Federal Savings & Loan, 1960, Julius Shulman (1910 - 2009) Courtesy J. Paul Getty Trust.

The Palm Springs Art Museum can’t get enough of E. Stewart Williams. Having closed on a deal to buy the Williams’ Sante Fe Federal Savings and Loan building on Palm Canyon Drive, the museum now owns two. The museum’s building was also designed by Williams and completed in 1976. The iron rock facade, blends so well into the landscape it appears to be a gateway to the mountains beyond. With its concrete coffered entryway, the museum building contains obvious Brutalist references, whereas the bank building completed in 1960 takes its cues from the International style.  Fine buildings both, but it must be said that with a giant white elephant of a vacated mall sitting in front of the museum building, having a presence on Palm Canyon won’t hurt. Museum spokesperson Bob Bogard said the new locale would be the ideal hub for Modernism Week activities and help direct traffic to the museum.

“We’ve had our eye on that building for quite a while, it’s a gem of mid-century,” said Bogard. He added that the museum plans to use the first floor for for exhibitions, programming, and retail. The basement lower level will be used for archives and storage. Marmol+Radziner Architects has offered to do the renovations pro bono. The museum purchased the building from Wessman Development for $2.1 milliont. The developer was using the building as its headquarters.

Speaking of Wessman Development, it turns out the new shopping center plan set to replace the white elephant in front the museum will no longer include demolishing the Town and Country Center–at least for now. The mid-century gem designed by A. Quincy Jones and Paul R. Williams was spared in a last minute stay of execution when the developer decided that public support for the overall mall project was far more important than being sidetracked with the preservation issue.


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