Young trio winning accolades for modernism designs that espouse form and function

Midcentury architect Richard Neutra designed the Kaufmann house in Palm Springs in 1946. When the house was in need of restoration, the homeowners contacted Marmol Radziner to do the work.

Midcentury architect Richard Neutra designed the Kaufmann house in Palm Springs in 1946. When the house was in need of restoration, the homeowners contacted Marmol Radziner to do the work. / File/The Desert Sun

Whether by double-decker bus, bicycle or foot, the tours of classic midcentury homes and buildings were some of the most popular events of Palm Springs Modernism Week.

While most events focused on the works of architects such as E. Stewart Williams, Richard Neutra, Donald Wexler and Albert Frey, one tour put the focus on young architects who have embraced the concepts of modernism.

Like the architects of the mid-20th century who blurred the lines between interior and exterior living and employed modern materials and techniques in their work, Lance O’Donnell, Doug Hudson and Leo Marmol are carrying on the principles of the earlier designers.

These architects “are the future,” Wexler said last week at the dedication of a room in his honor at the Del Marcos Hotel in Palm Springs.

“You couldn’t pick a better bunch,” Wexler said of O’Donnell, Hudson and Marmol. “They remind me of the early days when Stew Williams, Bill Cody and I were working in Palm Springs.”

He sees their work as following in the concepts espoused by Frank Lloyd Wright and other architects for whom “form follows function.”

“I don’t think any of us thought what we were doing was exceptional,” he said.

LANCE O’DONNELL, AIA, o2 Architecture: O’Donnell, 49, is a home-grown modernist.

“I grew up here in the valley, and I was raised in a post-and-beam house,” O’Donnell said. “That was the aesthetic I was accustomed to.”

O’Donnell received his bachelor’s degree in architecture in 1991 from California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo and his master’s degree from UCLA in 1994.

He’s worked with Donald Wexler, who used space in O’Donnell’s Palm Springs office after he retired from regular practice.

The two architects collaborated on the Hamptons Modern project on New York’s Long Island, and the work shows that modern philosophy is adaptable to any landscape.

“To be modern means that the architect works with the today’s technology and methods,” O’Donnell said. “That’s exactly what the midcentury architects were doing. They were using the tools available to them after the war.”

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