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Architecture & Modernism

Aluminaire House Receives $100,000 Donation from Palm Springs Presentation Foundation

Aluminaire House Palm Springs

The Aluminaire House Foundation announced that it has received a $100,000 donation from The Palm Springs Preservation Foundation (PSPF) to aid in the reassembly and display of the historic structure. Earlier this year the Aluminaire House Foundation announced that the house would be situated on the grounds of the Palm Springs Art Museum. This donation will help the Foundation reassemble the house and provide funds to create the surrounding display area for the structure.

The PSPF grant letter states, in part, that “[PSPF] believes the assembly and display of the historic Aluminaire House…in Palm Springs will reinforce the city’s international reputation as a mecca for modernist architecture.” A primary condition of the PSPF grant is that the assembly and display of the Aluminaire House be completed, to PSPF’s satisfaction, no later than December 31, 2023.

The historically significant aluminum and metal residence was designed by Albert Frey and A. Lawrence Kocher in 1931. The 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. The Aluminaire House arrived from New York, unassembled, in Palm Springs, California, in February of 2017. Once it is reassembled, the full arc of Albert Frey’s career in America, from 1931 until his death in 1998 in Palm Springs, may be experienced in the city and at the museum.

“We are tremendously honored that the Palm Springs Preservation Foundation has taken such a close interest in the reassembly and display of the Aluminaire House,” said Aluminaire House Foundation, California Chapter member Mark Davis. “We are gratified that preservation organizations realize the value of adding this historic structure to the city of Palm Springs. This amazing donation will greatly assist our efforts to reassemble the house and finally have it on display, further enhancing the City of Pam Springs’ reputation for outstanding architectural tourism.”

The Aluminaire House Foundation passed a major milestone this summer when it received a “Certificate of Appropriateness” from the city’s Historic Site Preservation Board to allow for the siting of the Aluminaire House on the grounds of the Palm Springs Art Museum.

“The Palm Springs Preservation Foundation has a mission to actively support significant preservation projects in our community,” said Gary Johns, PSPF President. “We have been closely following the progress of the Aluminaire House because it is exactly the type of relevant and important project that our organization supports. Once the house is reassembled, we know that this excellent example of Albert Frey’s work will be internationally acclaimed, so we are pleased to extend our support to assist in the reassembly and display of this work.”

About the Aluminaire House

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, which inspired the name. 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 Albert Frey, then a 28-year-old Swiss architect 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 emboldened a new architectural movement in the United States. While intended as a display of products, Aluminaire was also an overt demonstration of bringing together the ideas of mass production and high-density community planning. 

When the 1931 exhibition ended, the building was purchased by architect Wallace K. Harrison, who relocated it to his country estate in Huntington, Long Island, outside of New York City After years of poor maintenance, the severely deteriorated structure became at risk for demolition in the late 1980s. A concerned group of preservationists, led by architects Michael Schwarting and Julio M. San Jose, Dean of the New York Institute of Technology, saved it, dismantled it, and arranged for it to be donated to the school for their campus, where it was restored and reassembled by architecture students. When that campus closed, Schwarting and Campani took charge of the house and formed the Aluminaire House Foundation in 2011.  The house was again dismantled in 2012 and put into storage in New York where it languished in a shipping container. 

Schwarting and Campani were invited to Modernism Week several years ago to present on Aluminaire. Immediately after this, the California chapter of the non-profit Aluminaire House Foundation was registered, dedicated to raising funds to move the house to Palm Springs and reassemble it here for permanent display. This local committee, including Tracy Conrad, Mark Davis, Brad Dunning, Beth Edwards Harris and William Kopelk, began the task of raising funds to secure the permanent location for the architecturally significant house. In 2017, the disassembled house was shipped to Palm Springs and has been in storage. Funds are being raised by the Aluminaire House Foundation to reassemble the masterpiece, which will now be on the grounds of Palm Springs Art Museum. The Aluminaire Foundation is a 501(c)(3) non-profit registered in California and New York. For more information and to send a donation, please visit aluminaire.org.

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