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  • Writer's pictureErica Barnett

Architect: Albert Frey

Albert Frey was born in Zurich in 1903 and came from a more traditional, building-orientated academic background. Frey worked in his home country of Switzerland and Belgium, before finding a position at Le Corbusier’s Paris office. There, he worked on seminal projects with the great master, such as Villa Savoy.

Moving to New York in 1930, Frey was the first Corbusier disciple to work in the U.S. There, he became partners with architect A. Lawrence Kocher, who was also managing editor of Architectural Record magazine. Together they published numerous articles on urban planning, the modernist aesthetic, and technology. Kocher and Frey also designed four buildings, including the acclaimed Aluminaire House, a demonstration house designed for the Exhibition of the Architectural League in New York, 1931.

Frey arrived in Palm Springs for the first time in 1934 and immediately fell in love with the area. Attracted by the Californian desert landscapes he returned in 1939 and ended up relocating there permanently. Eventually, he set up a partnership with fellow architect and long-term collaborator John Porter Clark, who was already well-known for his works in the 1950s Palm Springs City Hall.

Notable buildings in Frey’s portfolio include the Aerial Tramway Valley Station (designed together with John Porter Clark), Cree House II, Frey House I (the architect’s own first designed home in Palm Springs), Loewy House, and of course the Tramway Gas Station, with its famous flying canopy (which is now used as a visitors centre).

On September 3, 2020, the Aluminaire House Foundation announced that it had donated the historic Aluminaire House to Palm Springs Art Museum to be included in the museum’s permanent collection, joining Frey House II. The historically significant aluminium and metal prototype residence, designed by Albert Frey and A. Lawrence Kocher in 1931, will soon be located outside on the grounds of the museum. The assembling of the structure is due to begin late this year.

Frey lived in Palm Springs until his death in 1998. As Palm Springs’ first full-time, resident architect, Frey is known as one of the founders of Desert Modernism.

Being one of the first great architects to bring the international style to Palm Springs and the wider region, Frey is widely recognized today as one of the true pioneers of the area’s remarkable architectural legacy.


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