It’s been nearly 70 years since Edward J. Kaufmann — a wealthy Pittsburgh department-store owner — approached Richard Neutra to design ‘a substantial winter retreat’ for himself and his wife, Liliane, in the up-and-coming town of Palm Springs.
Upon glancing at the infamous photographs of the residence, which were carefully staged and manipulated by the infamous architecture photographer Julius Shulman, one perceives a distinctive American modernness: a union of nature and technology, and a sophisticated optimism that harks back to the golden age that is central to American Glamour.
Often regarded as Neutra’s masterpiece, the dwelling reaches out with spindle-like columns and vast stretches of glass walls to meet a swimming pool and manicured lawn. Within the bounds of the seemingly limitless views of the sky and the nearby rocky peaks, the house and garden feel open and spacious, creating a sort of hybrid indoor-outdoor habitat. Dedicated to the comfort and pleasure of its residents, this desert house exudes an environment of glamour and luxury with its rich palette of materials and spacious outdoor ‘rooms.’
Today, architects still draw from Neutra’s elegant approach to postwar modernism. Various themes from the modernist residence continue to inspire the design of desert dwellings whose interior environments are seamlessly connected to the surrounding rugged landscape. Including expansive glass walls and sliding doors, picturesque yards with pools, open living spaces, carports, and thoughtful configurations of rooms (indoor and out) — this collection surveys some exceptional contemporary projects that take their cues from Kaufmann’s winter retreat.