According to C. B. Wilby in his book Concrete Folded Plate Roofs, Folded plates are sometimes called hipped plates, and in Germany “Faltwerke”. The principle was first used in Germany by a structural engineer named Ehlers in 1924, to cover large coal bunkers. Folded plate roofs allow large spans, clean lines and they are aesthetically pleasing to many architects.
In the 1960s, folded plates became less structural in nature, and are now usually considered mid-century decoration. Early examples illustrated here are Morris Lapidus’ 1960 decorative folded plate element used for a street canopy in Miami. In 1966, a similar canopy was built at Villa Roma in Palm Springs. Other early examples include Wexler & Harrison’s 1962 steel house and Val Powelson’s 1960 Sunbow House in LA. Two local versions by Santa Barbara architect Barry Berkus are the Park Imperial South and Merito Manor complexes from 1960 and 1961 respectively.
Not as well-known, but quite interesting in its own right is the Animal Medical Hospital (1960, Robert Ricciardi) at 606 South Oleander Road that features a folded plate roof on a circular floor plan.
A few years ago, Dink’s Restaurant & Lounge on North Palm Canyon was built new from the ground up. Attempting to recall the town’s Mid-century Modernism, the building unresolved and overly busy design features a section of folded plates; unclear on the concept…they appear to be supported by beams….go figure.
The last image is from the gallery entrance to the Don Wexler, Steel and Shade exhibition at the Palm Springs Art Museum. It is a replica of the roof on Wexler & Harrison’s 300 Molino Road steel house. On the whole, the Wexler & Harrison design seems the most elegant.