America’s West Coast in general, and California in particular, is an absolute treasure trove of modernist architecture. Tucked away between towering redwoods or perched on cliffs above the ocean, the Golden State is full of remarkable, experimental mid-century constructions.
California is home to some of the greatest designs from some of the most famous architects of the 20th century, like Charles and Ray Eames, Rudolph Schindler, and Frank Lloyd Wright. As a result, it is the perfect place for architecture fans to explore.
Modernist architects designed buildings that combined indoor and outdoor spaces, created to embrace the future and celebrate the future. So in the spirit of looking forward to good times ahead when LA cruising is back and the world is fully open once more, here are some of the most exciting gems of California’s mid-century delights.
Palm Springs: Miller House
The Miller house was designed and built as a combination home and exercise studio for Grace Lewis Miller, a famed therapist operating in California in the mid-20th century. It was created to fully provide for her specific needs and daily life, incorporating routine habits and therapeutic clients. As one of the first modern desert houses, it is innovative in bringing together and incorporating function, form, and natural environment.
Los Angeles: Casa de Cadillac, San Fernando Valley
This glitzy, glamorous, temple to car culture evokes a simple, more elegant time, the Golden Age of Cinema, and Los Angeles’ finest era. It is a great example of ‘Googie’ style, a movement that swept the American consciousness as car culture blossomed, the space race got into full swing, and man split the atom. The ‘Casa’ itself is designed to call to mind the sophistication of a movie set, draw the eye to the curves and shimmer of the Cadillacs themselves, and tempt you inside with the promise of beauty and excitement.
San Francisco: Wild Bird, Big Sur
Perched on the cliffs above Big Sur, Wild Bird is a glorious melding of concrete and nature, of land and ocean, and of modern society and the wilderness. It has a vulnerable, exposed feeling that compliments the natural beauty of its surroundings perfectly.
San Diego: Salk Institute, La Jolla
Founded by Jonas Salk, the inventor of the polio vaccine, the Salk Institute remains a center of Nobel Prize-winning research to this day. The aim of the design was to attract the best and brightest to this cathedral of science, and Louis Kahn and Luis Barragán’s fascinating creation does just that.