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Palm Springs Wants to Adopt NY's All-Metal Modernist House

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Palm Springs, home to enough wonderful Modernist buildings to devote a week to them each year, is hoping to add to its collection with a famous transplant all the way from New York: Aluminaire House, by Albert Frey and A. Lawrence Kocher. The Desert Sun reports that the mayor of Palm Springs is heading up the effort to raise $600,000 to disassemble, transport, and reassemble the iconic, all-metal house in the desert town where Frey lived and where many of his most famous works (the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway station, the Tramway Gas Station, Palm Springs City Hall) still stand today.

The 1931 prefab Aluminaire is acknowledged as the US's first all-metal house and likely the nation's first prefab house. Frey and Kocher (then the managing editor of Architectural Record) exhibited it at a show at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, where it was admired by both critics and the public. Made entirely of donated materials and originally assembled in just 10 days, it's been called one of the "the pivotal works of modern architecture in America." Created for the purpose of demonstrating that Modernist architecture could be made for middle-class families, it is also largely credited with bringing the International Style, already popular in Europe, to the US.

Regardless of its illustrious past, the once-famed structure is presently homeless since New York's Landmarks Preservation Commission rejected a proposal in January to put the house and two condo buildings on a corner in Queens—much to the delight of locals who were very vocal about not wanting them there. Palm Springs is working with the Aluminaire House Foundation, helmed by two architects who were principals at the firm trying to incorporate the building into that development.

It's not yet clear where in Palm Springs the structure would go (an area near the Palm Springs Art Museum has been proposed preliminarily), but there's no question that the city would be thrilled to add such a heavy-hitter to its architectural arsenal: "The Aluminaire is on the list of some of the most important buildings in the country, on a par with Fallingwater or the Farnsworth House. So it's a really interesting prospect to bring it to Palm Springs, where people can enjoy it, along with the rest of Albert Frey's work," a Palm-Springs-area preservationist says.
· Pougnet leads charge to bring Aluminaire House to Palm Springs [DS]
· Victory for Sunnyside as Landmarks Rejects Aluminaire House [Curbed NY]
· Touring the Boulder-Invaded Frey II House in Palm Springs [Curbed LA]