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If you love teak wood, simple lines, and pops of color, why not satisfy your mid-century modern fix while on vacation? Whether you prefer the sleek lines of International Style city skyscrapers, the integration with nature of Frank Lloyd Wright, or the the kitschy 50s resort style, you can find it in its original or restored glory around the country.
The destinations below have loads of examples of mid-century architecture and design to explore, and places to stay that reflect the style of the 1950s.
The desert oasis of Palm Springs has been treasured since it’s first inhabitants, the Agua Caliente band of Cahuilla Indians, arrived 2000 years ago. In the beginning of the 20th century, it was an exclusive playground for Hollywood’s stars. After World War II, when the Indians who had been granted moat of the land in the area were finally permitted to sell their land for a profit, there was a development boom just as a new modern style of architecture took hold.
The gorgeous mid-century architecture has been reclaimed and revitalized without going too far into the realm of kitsch. You can find residential and commercial gems by John Lautner and Donald Wexler and Richard Neutra’s iconic Kauffman House via a self-drive tour or guided tour.
For places to stay in Palm Springs, try The Parker, a mid-century resort that once belonged to Gene Autry, or the recently renovated L’Horizon, where you can live like one-time guest Marilyn Monroe. If you prefer a rental, try Vacation Palm Springs.
The east coast version of Palm Springs lies on the Atlantic Ocean, but residents only recently thought to capitalize on the kitschy “Googie” architecture that flourished there in the 1950s and 60s. As a result, many of the mid-century hotels have been demolished in favor of more contemporary developments in the popular resort town.
Today, though, the city promotes it’s “Doo Wop” architecture as a tourist destination, along with its classic New Jersey boardwalk. The bright neon, the courtyard pools, and the over-the-top colors are now celebrated even as modern development grows up around it. The city is promoting other mid-century and vintage events throughout the year to bring travelers to the area in the off-season.
For places to stay in Wildwood, try the Bel Air Hotel or the Caribbean, both relatively well-preserved examples of the Doo Wop style.
Three of Frank Lloyd Wright’s creations, including his masterpiece of Usonian architecture, Fallingwater, are within a couple of hours of Pittsburgh. If Fallingwater is the critical favorite, Kentuck Knob is the sentimental second for its warm woods, cool stone and walls of glass overlooking nature and and the Youghiogheny River below.
You can even stay in one of Wright’s creations at Polymath Park Resort in the Laurel Highlands. Set among wooded trails, the Duncan House features many of Wright’s signature elements – warm wood, built-in cabinetry, natural stone and neutral colors make the home feel like a part of the woods.
For places to stay in Pittsburgh, try the Kimpton Hotel Monaco or the Ace Hotel in a former YMCA building downtown.
Chicago offers a full menu of 20th century American architectural styles, and the Chicago architecture tour by boat is not to be missed.
One midcentury building you will not miss is Bertrand Goldberg’s Marina Center (pictured above), whose poured concrete curves are a direct reaction to the sharp angles of the stark International Style skyscrapers of Mies van der Rohe (though Goldberg was a student and a fan of Mies).
If you’re a Frank Llloyd Wright fan, Chicago is where you will find the highest concentration of his buildings, including Unity Temple, the Robie House, the Rookery, and his own home and studio. Many tours are available by foot, by bike, and by motor through the Frank Lloyd Wright Trust.
For places to stay in Chicago, try the Langham, a five-star hotel housed in a skyscraper designed by Mies van der Rohe, or the Park Hyatt, with a subtle midcentury style.
Do you have favorite mid-century modern destinations in these cities or others that we’ve missed here? Let me know in the comments below.
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