William Krisel and Dan Palmer Contribution to Mid-Century Modern Architecture

Born and raised in bustling Shanghai, William Krisel and his United States-born parents moved the family to California’s Beverly Hills in 1937. It is often noted that Krisel’s fathers interaction with architect Lilian Rice, who had designed the family’s California home, was to thank for Krisel’s interest in architecture as a child. More after the gallery…

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[tie_slide] william krisel - twin palms estate - model A-2 - palm springs - 1957 William Krisel, Twin Palms Estate,  Model A-2, Palm Springs, 1957. Photo by Darren Bradley
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[tie_slide] william krisel -racquet club estates - palm springs William Krisel, Racquet Club Estates, Palm Springs. Photo by Darren Bradley
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[tie_slide] william krisel -racquet club estates - palm springs William Krisel, Racquet Club Estates, Palm Springs. Photo by Darren Bradley
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[tie_slide]wiliam krisel - twin palms estates - palm springs - darren bradleyWiliam Krisel, Twin Palms Estates, Palm Springs. Photo by Darren Bradley
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william krisel - twin palms estate - model A-2 - palm springs - 1957 - darren bradleyWilliam Krisel, Twin Palms Estate,  Model A-2, Palm Springs, 1957. Photo by Darren Bradley
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[tie_slide] william krisel - darren bradley house - san diegoWilliam Krisel, Bradley House, San Diego. Photo by Darren Bradley
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World War II interrupted his architectural studies at the University of Southern California and led him to providing Chinese interpretation skills for a few years until he reenrolled. Krisel graduated in 1949 then earned his architecture license the following year.

This same year he entered a partnership with Hungary-born architect Dan Saxon Palmer. Palmer, who served during WWII as a mapmaker, draftsman, and photographer, had earned a B.A. in Architecture from New York University in 1942.

The early works of Dan Palmer and William Krisel, AIA, focused primarily on commercial and residential designs. Here, the firm experimented with a post-and-beam system. This led to using this modular form of designing in the firm’s first tract development—a 1952 development in San Fernando Valley that consisted of nearly a dozen homes.

A working relationship with family-owned Alexander Construction Company was formed here that would be used for future projects.

Palmer & Krisel broadened their architectural skills to influence the necessities of a then-prospering residential building industry. Distinguishing designs came to set their work apart from that of others by emphasizing indoor-outdoor living in a casual way.

Because these tract homes were standardized plans, they were easy to build and appealing to first-time home purchasers. The architects’ work represented the replication of ideals centered on experimenting with building methods, layout patterns, and materials while taking into consideration post-war lifestyle. The duo saw success of designing roughly 20,000 residential units in the Southern California region.

In 1954, the Alexander family set their prospects on recreational development in Coachella Valley’s Palm Springs and contracted Dan Palmer and William Krisel to build a resort called the Ocotillo Lodge.

Ocotillo was finished in 1957 with nearby tract homes making second-home ownership outside of Los Angeles more feasible to the region’s middle class.

Some of these dwellings include the Twin Palm Estates and the Sandpiper Condominiums, among others and were recognizable for their unique landscaping, block walls of concrete, swimming pools, and looking out at the desert.

During this time, William Krisel made an impression on architecture by designing an upscale home known as “The House of Tomorrow” for Bob and Helene Alexander.

Krisel worked independently for several years after his partnership with Palmer ended in 1964, Palmer going on to manage residential and commercial designs for projects in Saudi Arabia. With architect Abraham Shapiro, under the name Krisel/Shapiro & Associates, Krisel put his architectural skills to use on large office complexes, commercial buildings, and residential establishments.

San Diego’s Coronado Shores stands as one of the duo’s most well-known projects. This partnership continued until 1979.

With a rebirth of interest in Mid-century Modern architecture during the mid-2000s, William Krisel flourished again architecturally. Restoration efforts were made to his homes and new homes began to be built from refurbished versions of his old plans. The architect has been awarded numerous awards for his projects from various levels of government entities.

Photos by Darren Bradley

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