Sunnylands in the UK: Celebrating California modernism

Friday, June 9, 2017

The Annenberg Foundation Trust at Sunnylands is partnering with the Royal Institute of British Architects to bring a bit of California to England this month.

The two organizations are convening a special program, Bringing the Outside In: California Midcentury Modernist Architecture, at RIBA’s London headquarters on Tuesday, June 20.

“Modernism was the single most important philosophy of architecture and design of the 20th century,” explains Suzanne Waters of the British Architectural Library. Architects working in California created a distinct take on Midcentury Modernism. Drawing on natural beauty and abundant light, architects saw buildings as a frame to provide a seamless connection with the landscape. In the words of Albert Frey, “The sun, the pure air and the simple forms of the desert create perfect conditions for architecture.”

Sunnylands in Rancho Mirage, California is a celebrated example of California Midcentury Modernism and is the focus of the new book by Janice Lyle, Sunnylands: America’s Midcentury Masterpiece. The former winter home of Ambassadors Walter and Leonore Annenberg, Sunnylands is now a publicly accessible historic site and used by senior officials from the United States and abroad for impactful, high-level meetings and retreats. Walter served as United States ambassador to the Court of St. James’s in London during the Nixon administration. Leonore was chief of protocol in the Reagan administration.

The California modernism panel at RIBA convenes British and American experts for a stimulating examination during the famed London Festival of Architecture, which takes place throughout June. Presenters include Lyle, director of Sunnylands Center & Gardens; Frederick Fisher, the modernist architect who designed Sunnylands Center; and Sidney Williams, the respected former curator of architecture and design at the Palm Springs Art Museum. Other panelists include Pat Kirkham, scholar and author of Charles and Ray Eames: Designers of the Twentieth Century; and Catherine Ince, senior curator of the Victoria and Albert Museum.

The program is from 7:00 – 8:30 p.m. at the Royal Institute of British Architects, 66 Portland Place in London. For more information and tickets, visit RIBA.