A trip back to our roots

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They were doing it in the desert long before we even thought of it here. We’re talking modernism of course. If you love mid-century architecture, like we do at Box™, you’ll no doubt be a fan of the so-called ‘desert modernists’. Architect Richard Neutra is probably the best known. He designed more than 300 homes in California region (many for clients in the film industry) and several, including the iconic Kaufman house, were located in Palm Springs.

Although you may be a Neutra nut, another post-war architect whose work is scattered across this arid wilderness, is Donald Wexler. A contemporary of Neutra, Wexler may have designed homes for celebrities such as Dinah Shore and Frank Sinatra, but he took a highly pragmatic approach to this aesthetic. Like Neutra, he embraced architecture as an ‘insertion’ into the landscape and used many horizontal planes. Known for his trademark folded-steel roof, which zig-zag above his buildings, his dwellings embraced logic and efficiency, with an easy, fine-lined elegance. He was an architect who kept one eye on the detail, and another on costs. As such he was an advocate of prefabrication and the possibilities of modular design.

Unlike Box™, where our focus is on using Glulam timber post-and-beam construction for its sustainability benefits, Wexler liked to build his homes in prefabricated steel. He favoured the lightweight, flexible aspects of the structural steel frames and fashioned them on an 8-foot grid. It was a building system that he used first in classrooms and commercial projects but, in 1962, he designed seven such homes for a developer. With floor-to-ceiling sliders and fixed windows, they could be fitted together in just three days at a cost of US$13,000-US$17,000.

Those days may be long gone, but the benefits of modular design (with no material wastage) and using a kit of parts (where many components are prefabricated) still allows budget efficiencies and an accuracy of costs. At Box™, we’re happy to humbly follow in the footsteps of visionaries such as Wexler so that a greater proportion of the local market can enjoy good design that doesn’t cost the Earth.

If you’d like to experience a Wexler home for yourself, start making plans. Modernism Week takes place in February 2015 in Palm Springs. Enthusiasts from around the world gather at this event that takes place over 11 days for a feast of mid-century mania. You can tour the first home Wexler designed for his family, dine poolside at Frank’s place (that’s Ol Blue Eyes himself) or buy authentic collectibles from the era.

We’re so there…see www.modernismweek.com