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California architect William Krisel dies at 92

June 18, 2017

William Krisel, a pioneer of mass-market Modern residential architecture, died early this June, having left behind a legacy of tens of thousands of structures, primarily throughout the American West. He remained professionally active and publicly engaged until the end, having told NPR just last year, “[I’ve] achieved what I set out to do: create housing for the masses that they could afford and that would change their way of living and make life more enjoyable.”

In Palm Springs and elsewhere, Krisel’s tract housing defined the look of California postwar suburbia in the late 1950s and early to mid 1960s. His most iconic design elements include variations on the v-shaped “butterfly roof” and the use of open floor plans, clerestory windows, breezeways, and glass walls. His neighborhoods were mass-produced and affordable, but not cookie-cutter. Also a trained landscape architect, Krissel insisted that homes not be built in uniform lines, but rather with staggered setbacks and with alternating colors and roofline configurations. 

Half a century after his most seminal contributions, he lived to witness a resurgence of interest in his work by architects, real estate professionals, and authors. In 2015, Palm Springs took the unusual step of naming a street in his honor.

A documentary on William Krisel by Jake Gorst was released in 2010.

William Krisel, Architect Who Found a Midcentury Niche, Dies at 92,” New York Times, June 8, 2017. 

Top: A Krisel home in the Twin Palms neighborhood of Palm Springs, CA, photo couresty Darren Bradley; Bottom: William Krisel