Designed by Albert Frey, the Palms Springs tramway gas station was built in 1963. It sold Enco, a now forgotten brand of fuel.
Fantastic architecture or not, the north edge of Palms Springs was a poor location for a gas stop. Cars averaged 14 miles per gallon, yet too few needed topping off after turning up Tramway Road and carrying passengers to the Valley Station.
At some later point, business activity stopped. Building restoration took place in 1999, and the tramway station served as a sculpture gallery before becoming the Palm Springs Visitors Center.
I snapped these pictures on Jan. 17 to prove there’s nothing like a hyperbolic paraboloid at sunrise. Not that I’d have been able to distinguish a hyperbolic paraboloid from a oblate spheroid without the help of Palm Springs Weekend: The Architecture and Design of a Midcentury Oasis. The author, Alan Hess, calls the station “a building as a sign, a visual exclamation point in the desert.” Its location makes it “a symbolic gateway to a car-culture town.”
The canopy jets away from the craggy mountain backdrop, striking a counterpoint to nature’s work.