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Palm Springs Art Museum plans architecture and design annex

March 22, 2012 |  4:30 pm

Palm Springs architecture design museumThe Palm Springs Art Museum plans to create an architecture and design exhibition and study space by restoring a Midcentury Modern building by E. Stewart Williams. The 1960 glass-walled building in downtown Palm Springs, a short walk from the museum, was built in the International style to house the Santa Fe Federal Savings and Loan. In its new incarnation,the building will be called the Palm Springs Art Museum’s Edwards Harris Center for Architecture and Design.

“It’s incredibly unique," museum spokesman Bob Bogard said. "All of the walls are glass. It’s a really elegant building.”

Los Angeles architect Leo Marmol, whose Marmol + Radziner Architects will oversee the restoration of the building, called Williams "an incredibly powerful Modernist who yet had grace and sensitivity" in his designs. The museum, Marmol said this week, will be one of the few stand-alone architecture and design spaces in the country; in a time of economic uncertainty, the project is a message of hope, showing that the museum is "committed to our future by preserving our past."

The challenge will be to update the technical aspects of building -- lighting, security, fire suppression, heating and cooling -- while maintaining the character of the building. A terrazzo floor must be replaced because it was damaged by carpet tacks, Bogard said.

The museum announced in June that it bought the building for $2.1 million, and now it's seeking permits, Bogard said. The goal is to open in fall 2013, in conjunction with the museum’s 75th anniversary. Its holdings will include scale models, furniture and architectural drawings, such as Williams' original drawings for the bank building. The center also will have room for classes and research.

The Edwards Harris Trust provided some of the funding for the building. Beth Harris is a preservationist who is involved in the California Preservation Foundation. She and her former husband owned the Kauffman House, the Richard Neutra landmark in Palm Springs.

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-- Mary MacVean

Rendering from Marmol Radziner / Palm Springs Art Museum

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