Architect William Krisel, who influenced the look of midcentury Palm Springs, dies at 92 – Los Angeles Times
William Krisel, an architect whose houses that includes butterfly roofs, patterned concrete block partitions and submit-and-beam building put a Modernist stamp on Southern California's suburbs in the 1950s and ’60s, died Monday at his house in Beverly Hills. He was 92.
Krisel designed the futuristic “Home of Tomorrow” in Palm Springs, which was featured in Look journal in 1962 and 5 years later got here to be generally known as the honeymoon hideout of Elvis and Priscilla Presley. Along with his enterprise companion, the late Dan Saxon Palmer, Krisel designed many different customized houses in Bel-Air and Brentwood, beginning in 1949.
Nevertheless it was Krisel's designs for hundreds of tract houses constructed by the Alexander Development Co. in the Coachella Valley, primarily as trip or second houses, that cemented his profession and formed the picture of Palm Springs as a mecca for Midcentury Trendy structure.
The agency of Palmer and Krisel discovered a strategy to make Trendy design accessible to center-class house patrons, in keeping with structure critic Alan Hess.
“They introduced glorious and chic fashionable design to mass-produced housing,” Hess mentioned in a 2008 interview with The Times. “That is vital as a result of each huge title in fashionable structure at midcentury tried to crack into the mass-produced housing market. And so they all failed. Palmer and Krisel, who weren't at all properly-recognized, solved the downside.”
Quickly after Krisel graduated from USC in 1949, he and Palmer persuaded builders George and Robert Alexander to allow them to design tract homes in the west finish of the San Fernando Valley.
The architects’ clear and easy modern design and modular submit-and-beam building technique allowed for expansive use of glass and open flooring plans that melded indoor and out of doors dwelling areas.
“Earlier than that, inexpensive tract homes had been cheesy, low-ceiling cracker containers with holes poked out for home windows,” Krisel informed The Times in 2008.
The homes in the 1953 Corbin Palms subdivision are clustered round Corbin Avenue alongside the Tarzana-Reseda-Winnetka border. The houses bought shortly and profitably, partly as a result of they had been constructed effectively with newer, much less-costly supplies and with simply replicated cookie-cutter fixtures corresponding to lighting, doorways and home windows.
The Alexanders, a father-and-son workforce, noticed their subsequent alternative in Palm Springs. They retained Palmer and Krisel in 1956 to design the Ocotillo Lodge motel on East Palm Canyon Drive and houses for the adjoining Twin Palms tract, one of the space's first main subdivisions.
The early homes had been of modest measurement, about ,600 sq. ft in a single story, that includes similar flooring plans primarily based on submit-and-beam building, flooring-to-ceiling glass home windows that offered views of the placing panorama, and enormous overhangs affording shade from the harsh local weather.
To interrupt up the sameness, completely different roof traces in angular sweeps had been utilized to the facades, and flooring plans had been flopped or skewed on the concrete slab tons.
Breezeways and carports constructed of modular, patterned concrete blocks, together with air-conditioning programs, swimming swimming pools and palm timber, rounded out the bundle.
From that starting in the mid-1950s, Krisel went on to design greater than 2,500 tract houses for the Alexanders in the sprawling desert at the base of the San Jacinto Mountains. However the Palm Springs tasks ended abruptly when practically the total Alexander household was killed in a aircraft crash in 1965.
That was additionally about the time the Palmer and Krisel partnership was dissolving. Whereas Palmer had overseen operations in Los Angeles, Orange and Ventura counties, Krisel was protecting San Diego and Riverside counties. The architects went their separate methods in 1964, and Krisel continued to design residential houses in addition to excessive-rise condominiums and industrial buildings. Palmer died in 2007.
Krisel was born Nov. 14, 1924, in Shanghai to American dad and mom who labored for the U.S. State Division. He and his household returned to the United States in 1937, and the teenage Krisel was impressed to change into an architect after studying about Frank Lloyd Wright in Life journal.
He enrolled at USC in 1941 however enlisted in the Military after the bombing of Pearl Harbor. As a result of he spoke Chinese language fluently, he was assigned to be an interpreter for Gen. Joseph Stilwell.
When World Battle II ended, Krisel returned to USC and studied structure and panorama design. He graduated in 1949, labored for a time for architect Victor Gruen and have become an affiliate in Palmer's architectural workplace. In 1950 Krisel was made a companion in the Palmer and Krisel agency, which later turned generally known as P&Okay.
In 1953, he married his spouse. Corinne, who survives him together with their two kids, William and Michelle.
Lately, Krisel's work has loved a resurgence in Palm Springs, the place total neighborhoods of houses designed by him and constructed by the Alexanders stay intact. Not solely are Krisel's modernist designs being restored, they're being reproduced, half a century later.
“Desert Modernism and the iconic house design of Palm Springs are synonymous with William Krisel,” mentioned Lisa Vossler Smith, government director of Modernism Week. “He was a prolific and revolutionary architect whose pioneering work has led him to change into one of the most vital figures in American Midcentury Trendy structure.”
In 2006, new building was below method on residences primarily based on his authentic plans and marked by such retro touches as winged roofs, however upgraded to present constructing codes and that includes inexperienced technological options and luxurious facilities.
“Invoice was a pragmatist who believed in Modernism as a philosophy and held to his ideas all through his lengthy profession,” mentioned Sidney Williams, former curator of Structure and Design at the Palm Springs Artwork Museum. “Designing homes that had been inexpensive and good-looking, he left an vital mark on Palm Springs structure. Even when he retired from lively follow, he suggested present homeowners on how you can replace their homes for the 21st century.”
The architect had an evidence for Modernism's enduring enchantment. “Midcentury Modernism shouldn't be a mode, it is a language,” Krisel mentioned in 2006. “It stays the identical whether or not it is spoken in 1955 or 2005. It is a language that may all the time be spoken.”
Workers Author Lisa Boone contributed to this report.
Noland is a former obituary editor for the Times.