Designers and Preservationists: Howard Hawkes, Kevin Kemper - H3K Design

The booming resurgent interest in modernism over the past 15 years - and midcentury modernism, in particular - brought many architecture and design afficianados back to the Coachella Valley. It also brought a new generation of gifted architects and designers who devoted themselves to the promotion of the style, its design principles and aesthetics, and worked to renovate, replicate, and restore the many examples - residential, as well as commercial - found in Palm Springs, Rancho Mirage, Palm Desert, and Indian Wells.

Two of the most talented and notable of these designers - with one of the most impressive portfolios of midcentury restoration projects - is H3K Design, the partnership of Howard Hawkes and Kevin Kemper.

Howard Hawkes’ passion for design and architecture began in childhood through his father’s real estate business, which included renovating and restoring Victorian homes. He not only learned the trade of construction and detailed finish work, but also fine-tuned his eye for design and composition of space and scale.

As part of his Bachelor of Science degree in Urban and Regional planning at the University of Southern California, Hawkes spent a semester studying the history and architecture of Los Angeles, which exposed him to the breadth of architectural styles across the LA basin. During his tenure at the Los Angeles Metropolitan Transportation Authority, Hawkes furthered his appreciation of significant architecture through his involvement in projects that included the preservation of historic buildings.

After leaving Los Angeles to manage his family's business, Hawkes was able to supervise multiple construction projects from design to completion. It was during this time that Hawkes and Kemper purchased a mid-century modern home in Palm Springs, attracted to the clean lines and inherent optimism of this period architectural style.

In 2006, H3K Design was born – a design company that re-imagines mid-century modern homes. Their first project - in Palm Springs' famous Racquet Club Estates - remains one of the highest–priced Alexander-built homes ever sold in the neighborhood.

H3K’s portfolio of projects eventually came to include everything from condominiums to estate-sized properties all across the Coachella Valley: from neighborhoods such as Vista Las Palmas and Deepwell, in Palm Springs, to Thunderbird and Valley of the Sun, in Rancho Mirage.

The philosophy of Hawkes and Kemper on midcentury modern architecture in the desert is to preserve the structure of the building while providing modern-day convenience and space utilization to create a 21st century lifestyle in a 1950’s house.

Raised in Hawaii, Kevin Kemper’s exposure and early interest in design and architecture was greatly influenced by the traditional Hawaiian style of indoor-outdoor living. His familial roots in architecture extend far beyond the Aloha State, however. Kemper’s great grandfather, Edward C. Kemper, devoted nearly 35 years of his life to the American Institute of Architects (A.I.A.) as executive director from 1914 to 1948. In fact, each year the A.I.A presents the Edward C. Kemper Award to an architect member who has contributed significantly to the profession through service to the A.I.A.

After earning his degree in Television and Film Production from the University of Southern California, Kemper worked in the entertainment industry for talent agents and production companies.

When he and Howard Hawkes moved to Santa Barbara, Kemper became involved with Hawkes' family business of renovating Victorian houses. This is where Kemper’s passion for renovation and architecture took flight.

Creating H3K Design with Hawkes in 2006 was the culmination of this intrinsic passion. Kemper’s ability to re-interpret the aesthetic of indoor-outdoor living, and blend it with the modernizing of mid-century homes - while paying homage to original modernist design ideals - is the crux of H3K Design’s spirit.

H3K's inspired but sensitive renovations have not been strictly limited to residential spaces, either: after standing vacant for some 15 years, Hawkes and Kemper were brought in to give Palm Springs' historic "Twist" Building - originally built in 1951 as the Sunset Towers - in a major renovation.

The project included 38 apartments in the complex along Via Lola, as well as the commercial spaces that front North Palm Canyon - including the former home of legendary nightspot Don the Beachcomber (with its landmark stylized orange rooftop Tikis, which remain). These commercial spaces now house the Ernest Coffee Co., Bootlegger Tiki, Archangel Gallery, and the Woodman Shimko Gallery, amidst a hotly revitalized Uptown District.

Howard Hawkes currently serves on the board of the Vista Las Palmas Neighborhood Organization, and - along with Kevin Kemper - is a member of the Palm Springs Preservation Foundation, the Palm Springs Modern Committee, and the Palm Springs Art Museum.

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