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- Feb 16, 2018
Albert Frey's 1931 Aluminaire House waits for a permanent home in Palm Springs.
Albert Frey may be remembered as one of the celebrated fathers of Desert Modernism, but the Swiss-born architect’s first American project was actually a model house in New York.
Soon after Frey arrived from Paris, where he had worked for Le Corbusier, the firm of A. Lawrence Kocher enlisted Frey to help design a house for the biennial Allied Arts and Industries/Architectural League of New York expo in 1931.
Dubbed the Aluminaire House, the boxy three-story structure was erected in 10 days with ready-made materials. Its aluminum-panel exterior and its sleek interiors were a hit with visitors and critics.
Almost 90 years later — a meandering history that nearly included demolition — the Aluminaire now sits in a container in Palm Springs, to be rebuilt in a city park being designed by Rios Clementi Hale Studios.
A full-size representation of the house — scaffolding covered with a printed scrim — sits on the site this month for Modernism Week, which runs Thursday through Feb. 25. A scale model of Aluminaire will be on view at Modernism headquarters, part of the campaign to raise the $475,000 still needed to erect the house and restore it.
“Much of the interior needs to be refabricated,” said Frances Campani, who, along with Michael Schwarting, has been shepherding the house through its incarnations for three decades. Both are architects and academics. Schwarting was responsible for bringing the house to the Islip campus of the New York Institute of Technology in 1988 for use as a teaching tool for students.
“It had been altered over the years,” Campani said, “and as we took off the layers that had been added, it began to look better and better.”
In 2005, the institute decided to close its Islip branch, and the Aluminaire had to pull up roots again.
In 2014 architectural devotee Mark Davis invited Schwarting and Campani to talk about the Aluminaire at Modernism Week. They received such a resounding welcome that a California branch of the Aluminaire House Foundation was established to bring the house to Palm Springs.
“Frey is so important to Palm Springs, and most of his work is here,” said Davis, a foundation board member. “It’s very rare for one city to have the entire arc of an architect’s career, from the first building to his last.” During Modernism Week, several events will honor Frey, including the premiere of the documentary “Albert Frey: Part 1 — The Architectural Envoy” on Sunday. A community update on the Aluminaire project at the Palm Springs Art Museum (free but reservations no longer available) and a fundraiser at the estate of the late industrial designer Raymond Loewy are scheduled for Feb. 23.
- Feb 2, 2018
How Palm Springs' modernist villas redefined glamour
Oscar Holland, CNN
In May 1947, Frank Sinatra showed up at Emerson Stewart Williams' office in Palm Springs, California, and asked for a Georgian-style vacation home. As the late architect recounted to Vanity Fair more than 50 years later, the singer's only other stipulation was that it was finished by Christmas.
The deadline was feasible. But when it came to the design, Williams had other ideas, according to Tim Street-Porter, the photographer behind a new book on the city, "Palm Springs: A Modernist Paradise."
"(Sinatra) wanted it to be in a period style, but the architect talked him into having a modernist house," Street-Porter said in a phone interview. "When he got it, he entertained in it. And because Sinatra was who he was, it got other entertainment industry people, like Diana Shaw, to get modernist houses there too."
Complete with a swimming pool, glass walls and a shady veranda for cocktail parties, Sinatra's home was typical of the mid-century modernism that swept Palm Springs after World War II. The city soon became a holiday playground for the stars -- from Zsa Zsa Gabor to Bing Crosby -- leaving it with one of the highest concentrations of modernist buildings anywhere in the world (Street-Porter puts the overall figure at over 5,000 houses).
While the photographer's new book omits Sinatra's home in favor of lesser-known residences, he uses the story to illustrate an important point -- that the Palm Springs modernist boom wasn't just about the whims of Hollywood. It was about the vision of the city's pioneering architects.
- Jan 31, 2018
Luxury Guide to Palm Springs: It’s not exactly groundbreaking to talk about Palm Springs as an ultimate California getaway. The desert town has long been a favorite hot spot for A-list Angelenos—like Hollywood stars Elizabeth Taylor and Bob Hope, who first made it glamorous when they were bound by their studios to be within 200 miles of L.A. at all times. Then it quickly became the place to see and be seen in the swinging ’50s and ’60s, drawing visitors from around the globe.
Today, however, the modernist oasis is in the midst of a renaissance. Sleek new hotels are cropping up throughout the region, and some of the oldest Hollywood hideouts are being restored to their former glory. World-renowned exhibitions like biennial Desert X (a 2017 Best of the Best winner for its innovative art exhibitions) and Palm Springs Modernism week, along with the ever-popular Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival, are drawing in the word’s jet set once again, giving visitors far more to do than lounge by the pool with a martini. (Though there’s certainly no shame in spending a weekend doing just that.)
Here are our top picks for where to stay, what to eat, and what to see for an ultra-glamorous long weekend in the desert’s modern oasis.
- Dec 28, 2017
Palm Springs Is Brand New All Over Again.
Downtown Palm Springs was Literally Rebuilt from Scratch.