First off, shout out to my mom for pointing out William Krisel’s Twin Palms to me.
I don’t know about you guys, but when I picture tract housing, I picture rows of identical, cheaply built cookie cutter homes that crush my creativity. But, Twin Palms is different, and it’s genius.
Twin Palms is a subdivision of 90 homes on the South Side of Palm Springs in the California Desert. It was designed in the 1950s by famed architect William Krisel. And this guy was a true innovator; perfecting the technique of offering standard floor plans with a bevvie of attractive options. Similar to how the motor vehicle industry has produced cars for years.
Following that model, each house in the Twin Palms development has an identical 40’ x 40’ floor plan. Easy peazy for builders to bang out. This also allows some components (kitchens, door assemblies, etc) to be prefabricated off site.
Now, I know what you’re thinking... “this sounds pretty cookie cutter to me”. But just hold your horses a moment, there’s genius to come.
Because of the perfectly square floor plan, each home can easily be rotated 90 degrees on adjoining lots. This varies the entrance in relation to the street and provides a unique presence to every home. Owners can chose to have a front, right courtyard, or left courtyard entrance. Each property also contains a detached carport, adding an additional building block to play with the position and the look of the home. The square floor plan also allows the roof to be supported fully on four beams, resulting in none of the interior walls being load bearing. This is music to the ears of anyone wishing to do any renovations.
And the roof options are endless. Imagine having the option to choose from a butterfly, gable, slanted or even an extended butterfly roof? Kisel even made sure that owners could alter the pitch of their rooflines. He also had the foresight to hide the plumbing lines & air-conditioning ducts in the concrete floor slab, making it easy and more cost effective for builders to install different roofs. This design leaves the roof structure visible inside the home, which had been a custom feature reserved for only wealthy clients up until that point.
To geek out a little, let’s estimate the different styles that could be created with the variables on hand. So... we have 3 potential entry ways (front, right, and left), 2 different carport locations (left or right side), 4 different roof styles (butterfly, gable, slanted, extended butterfly).
Thats 3 x 2 x 4 = 24 different options. Now assuming you wouldn’t combine a right entry with a left carport that removes 8 options, leaving us with 16. Now if we assume an even distribution in a tract of 90 homes we will have 90/16 = 5.63 ‘identical’ site layouts of each home. Meaning if you bought one house there may be 5.63 others in the tract that are the same site layout/roof type. Now we didn’t include exterior finishes, landscaping, roof pitches, and the myriad of other variables that could be included. When you delve into those, there’s decent chance your home is unique..
Good design allows for amazing results and that’s just what Krisel achieved here. It shows that with upfront planning, affordable housing can be produced on mass, while maintaining (in this case overflowing with) creativity and good design.
Modern and truly unique homes, on a tract budget...genius.
Ps - in case you were wondering it’s called Twin Palms because Krisel planted two palms on every lot. Cool right?