Aluminaire House

by Albert Frey

The Aluminaire House Foundation has gifted the Aluminaire House to the Palm Springs Art Museum as a part of their permanent collection. 

The now iconic masterpiece of modernist design will be reconstructed in a prominent location, where the south parking lot of the Museum currently is, at the corner of W. Tahquitz Way and Museum Way.

Aluminaire House is considered a masterpiece of modernist design, recently listed by Architectural Record as one of the most important buildings completed worldwide in the past 125 years. New York architects Michael Schwarting and Frances Campani worked diligently for more than 25 years to save, protect, and document Aluminaire, and formed the Aluminaire House Foundation to locate a suitable permanent home for the structure.

Swiss-born architect Albert Frey (1903-1998), arguably the most significant architect to have worked in the Palm Springs region of California, established the style of architecture that has become known as “desert modernism.”

Having trained with Le Corbusier amongst a group of international colleagues, Frey brought a European sensibility when he came to New York and began collaborating with the American architect A. Lawrence Kocher in 1930. Over a period of roughly five years, the two made significant contributions to the American modernist movement, including the creation in 1931 of Aluminaire House, the now iconic masterpiece of modernist design which has been recently donated to Palm Springs Art Museum.

In 1931, the Allied Arts and Industries and the Architectural League of New York unveiled the starkly modern, all metal ‘Aluminaire’ home, constructed mostly of aluminum and glass components. It was intended to be mass-produced and affordable, using inexpensive, off-the-shelf materials. Aluminaire caught the attention of the public so much that in just one week on exhibit, more than 100,000 visitors toured the home. 

The three-story house, assembled in just ten days, was designed by A. Lawrence Kocher, the managing editor of Architectural Record, and the then 28-year-old Swiss architect Albert Frey, who had recently immigrated to America after working in Paris for the great architect Le Corbusier. It was the first all-metal house constructed in the United States, and of such importance in the architectural world that images of it were featured in the prestigious exhibition, “The International Style – Architecture Since 1922” at New York’s Museum of Modern Art in 1932.

Aluminaire House Interior

While the interior details of Aluminaire House were rendered in sketches and described in notes, they have yet to be realized. A committee of museum curatorial staff, architects, and interior designers will be assembled to survey the pertinent archival materials and conceptualize appropriate interior detail that will complete Aluminaire’s presentation.