William Krisel, who designed captivating but economical tract housing that enabled real estate developers in the Sun Belt to market modern architecture to the masses in the 1950s and ’60s, died on Monday in Beverly Hills, Calif. He was 92.
His son, William E. Krisel, confirmed the death.
What William Levitt did on Long Island after World War II to fulfill that cherished American dream of homeownership— building uniform, prefabricated, saltbox-style homes in a former potato field — the developers who hired Mr. Krisel’s architectural firm did in the California desert and elsewhere.
Except, by following Mr. Krisel’s blueprints, they created homes that were not only affordable and mass produced, but also architecturally appealing. They had elegant glass walls to accentuate the outdoor vistas, high clerestory windows for light, post-and-beam construction to allow for fewer walls, breezeways and brick fireplaces, and angular roof lines that in some models soared like butterfly wings.
Mr. Krisel (pronounced CRY-sell) was never inclined to desert living himself, but his designs were used in the construction of tens of thousands of houses and apartments in Southern California — in Palm Springs, San Diego and Los Angeles — as well as in Las Vegas, Arizona and Florida, many of them bought as second homes.
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By the late 1950s, he and his business partner, Dan Palmer, had gotten so good at coupling elegance with frugality that they were producing plans for seven of the nation’s 10 biggest homebuilders, Mr. Krisel once said.
“That’s significant because every big name in modern architecture at midcentury tried to crack into the mass-produced housing market,” Alan Hess, an architecture critic and historian, told The Los Angeles Times in 2008. “And they all failed. Palmer and Krisel, who weren’t at all well-known, solved the problem.”
In an interview with NPR last year, Mr. Krisel said, “I have had built, from my designs, over 40,000 living units, and that’s more than any other architect that I know of.”