About the firm: SOMA is a New-York based international architecture firm founded by Michel Abboud. The design philosophy of the firm is to design adaptable buildings that grow with the needs of the clients while simultaneously working with the external forces governing the project. The firm believes in bringing into play patterns that self-regulate and evolve with the site to retain its planned as well as unplanned future utilities and functions.
The firm has done remarkable work in the field, with projects ranging from residential to hospitality and mixed-use development. SOMA’s young and creative approach is what sets it apart from the rest. One such project is the 750 lofts hotel in Palm Springs, California.
Located in the historical context of Uptown Design District, Palm Springs, 750 lofts also known as the Palm Spring Hotel is a mixed-use hotel planned to revitalize the Indian Canyon Drive and revamp the surrounding area. The proposal is to demolish an abandoned 1980s-era former bank building to set up a three-story high hotel, the amenities of which will include a banquet space, a 113-seat restaurant facing The Palm Canyon drive, a spa, a rooftop swimming pool, and a bar area.
Keeping in mind the historic context and the essentially low-rise development in the neighborhood, the 750 lofts hotel is a good example of a building that responds well to the surrounding modern buildings and leaves an impact at the same time.
The design takes advantage of a duplex layout to lower the height of the building to 33 feet on the Palm Canyon and Indian Canyon drive. This reduced height prevents the structure from becoming overpowering, helps blend well with the immediate context, and allows unobstructed views from the surrounding buildings.
With regard to the Mid-century modernist tradition of Palm springs and to preserve its essence, the structure is designed in cast-in-place concrete in its exposed and raw glory. This exposed concrete facade was adopted in honor of the exemplary modernist buildings like the house of John Lautner or the work of modernist sculptors such as Donald Judd, the projects of which were exhibited at the art museum of Palm Springs.
The frames and emblems of recurring volumes were inspired by the works of modernist architects such as Donald Wexler’s repetitive structures with steel roofs, and the Coachella Valley Savings and Loan by E. Stewart Williams.
The suites are designed with a double-height living and a kitchenette at the lower level and a bedroom at the loft level overlooking the living. The design of the interiors is sophisticated and minimalistic in nature, with exposed concrete panels and wooden textures used as the material pallet. The planning of each unit is done linearly with the entrance to the unit at one end and floor to floor window openings with a double-height balcony at the other end.
These suite units are juxtaposed on ‘V’ shaped columns along the Palm Canyon and Indian Canyon drives. The area under the stilt serves as parking along one road and as a restaurant along the other road. The reconfiguration of the units away from the street prevents the height from being seen by a person standing at ground level and helps maintain a relatable human scale.
To break the monotony of the façade and prevent the creation of a continuous monolithic volume, voids of approximately 4.5m are introduced in between the volumes. This eliminates redundancy and enhances the massing by creating a more open, balanced, and transparent form. These voids act as viewing corridors by offering unhindered views of the mountains to the west from the Indian Canyon Drive.
These voids not only have an aesthetic purpose by breaking down the building into three separate volumes but also have a functional aspect by serving as the axes along which the horizontal circulation takes place.
The division of the structure into disjoint volumes prevents the form from looking bulky and rigid. The smaller, diversified volumes help in creating a more relatable structure to the surrounding buildings and shapes the structure in such a way that it responds well to the scale of the neighborhood.
Another striking feature of the project is the façade displaying undulating fabric outdoor drapes on each individual unit along the two roads. These drapes act as a barrier and protect against wind, dust, noise, and sunlight. They also give the façade a dynamic appearance by introducing rhythm and movement with the fabric.
In conclusion, the design of 750 lofts hotel by SOMA architects has successfully evolved over a period of time with the site to ultimately showcase a structure that is open, transparent, and blends well with the modernist tradition of Palm Springs.
The exposed concrete finish façade with the undulating drapes and the voids in between the repetitive volumes appeals to the modern aesthetic of the neighborhood and brings life to the urban fabric of Palm Springs.