Completed in 1960 by modernist architect Barry Berkus, Park Imperial South Residences is a community of 30 units located on a 3.5-acre lot in South Palm Springs. A one-floor plan consists of a single story 2 bedrooms + den and 2 baths in 1,426 sq ft units. The community is well known for its iconic mid-century style, folded plate roofs, terrazzo floors, and interesting and creative decorative concrete blocks.
Park Imperial South Residences Technical Information
- Architects: Barry Berkus
- Location: Palm Springs, United States
- Topics: Mid-Century, American Houses, Palm Springs Architecture
- Area: 1,426 sq ft per unit
- Project Year: 1960
- Photographs: © ArchEyes
I have a particular fondness for rooms which are virtually surrounded by light and have a solarium effect.
– Barry Berkus
Park Imperial South Residences Photographs
Park Imperial South was importantly Berkus’ very first built project, completed when he was just 25 years old. He had just finished studying at the University of Southern California, learning from architects Conrad Buff and Richard Neutra. He landed an internship with William Cody, master of modernism in Palm Springs. Inspired by A Quincy Jones, Cliff May, and the Eichler homes, he decided to focus on residential architecture.
This would be the beginning of Berkus’ long career designing houses in America under his studio B3 Architects. However, rather than the lightweight rooflines and glass facades, his later works showed more allegiance to Frank Lloyd Wright than William Cody and later post-modernism.
Berkus did another significant project in Palm Springs, Merito Manor. The homes in both communities have the same folded plate roofs and the same floor plans, but Merito Manor has only 10 units, while Park Imperial South has 30.
The original condominium design was skillfully zoned and executed with floor to ceiling windows and sliding glass doors overlooking private walled courtyards. The condominium walls facing public spaces were designed with clerestory windows sitting above decorative concrete block walls.
When it opened in 1960, it was marketed as a new concept for living at home with resort-style services. ‘Park Imperial is footstep close to a perpetual holiday,’ read the sales brochure.
Each 1,426 sq ft unit has an identical plan with a built-in central bar area for entertaining and a ‘runway’ of cream-colored terrazzo that flows from the entrance to the patio doors. Unique original interiors include the drop pendant globe lights, abstract steel exhaust hoods, and a ceramic tile at each entrance.
The three and a half-acre development of 30 homes connected by curvy plant-lined paths are held in high architectural esteem by desert modern aficionados. The experimental folded plate roofs of the units tested the span of stress skin panels, leaving columnless space for open plan living inside. The geometric roofline zig-zags against the mountain backdrop and casts sculptural light into the interiors.
Each 1,426 sq ft unit has an identical plan with a built-in central bar area for entertaining, and a ‘runway’ of cream-colored terrazzo flows from the entrance to the patio doors. Unique original interiors include the drop pendant globe lights, abstract steel exhaust hoods, and a ceramic tile at each entrance.
In addition to their folded plate roofs, the homes are distinguished by their convertible den or third bedroom. It was partitioned off by what could only be described as a shoji screen. The screens all stack to one side and are a very decorative element. And when you needed to close off that den/convertible bedroom, the shoji screen slide along a track and closed off that room and truly made it a convertible space.
The shoji screens were also employed across the kitchen opening, where they stack on either side of the room’s opening. So when the host or cook wants, they can slide the screens across, and the kitchen is closed off.
In the current days, most of the homes retain their original midcentury details.
Later in his career, architect Berkus wrote in his book Sculpting Space published in 2002: ‘I have a particular fondness for rooms which are virtually surrounded by light and have a solarium effect.’
Park Imperial South Residences Plans
Park Imperial South Residences Image Gallery
About Barry Berkus
Barry Berkus (1935 – 2012) was an American architect, author, and art collector. He established an architectural firm in Santa Barbara in the 1970s, with offices across the United States of America and the world.
Berkus studio designed thousands of houses and helped write building codes and develop new towns in Japan. Berkus was primarily an “architect of mass-market housing.” His work included resort and master-planned communities, urban infill, commercial and institutional projects, and custom homes.