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Frey’s Aluminaire House remains in a shipping container in Palm Springs

The Albert Frey Aluminaire house that was donated and shipped to the Palm Springs Art Museum about five years ago will remain disassembled in its shipping container for at least a year or more.

The museum was able to develop a roadmap to unpack and rebuild the house, the museum’s executive director and CEO, Adam Lerner, said Saturday.

“It will not be erected by the winter of 2021-22. We know that for sure,” Lerner said. “But hopefully the path to building it will soon become clear to you. We have a commitment to that.

Lerner provided an update on the home during the first of two days of the Palm Springs Preservation Matters 2022 symposium, which was held Saturday and Sunday at the convention center.

He was one of seven presenters on Saturday on architectural topics such as “Preserving Paul R. Williams’ Legacy: The Town & Country Center and His Architecture in Palm Springs”, “Preservation through Education”, and “Southridge Beyond the Gate: Architectural Drama”. , Diversity and Excellence.

The four hours of free presentations were followed by home/site tours at an additional cost.

The event, held in the Primrose Ballroom, was hosted by fashion designer Trina Turk and attracted around 300 people.

Make a house for the House of the Aluminary

Lerner came to the museum in August 2021 when efforts were made to rebuild the Aluminaire’s House, created by Frey and his then architectural partner, A. Lawrence Kocher, to a permanent location in the museum’s south parking lot. .

Built in 1931, the three-story metal and aluminum structure was one of Frey’s first major works and was built as part of an exhibition, serving as an example of affordable and efficient home design that could be designed with mass production and modern materials.

“It’s been built and deconstructed multiple times,” Lerner said. “Although it was never built as a permanent structure.”

It was first exhibited at an exhibition in New York and later moved to an estate. After falling into disrepair, the house was moved to the campus of the New York Institute of Technology.

That campus closed, and in 2011 New York architects Michael Schwarting and Frances Campani established the nonprofit Aluminaire House Foundation and began seeking permanent housing for the structure.

The house was put into storage in 2012, where it remained until enough money was raised—about $600,000—to move it to Palm Springs in 2017. The plan called for the rebuilt house to be on permanent display in front the museum, in the south parking lot.

Palm Springs is home to several residential, commercial, institutional, and civic buildings designed by Frey, who lived in the city for many years. The museum has 65% of Frey’s archival materials in its custody, Lerner said.

It was originally planned that the Maison de l’Aluminaire be rebuilt by the winter of 2021-22. But when he first arrived in Palm Springs last year, Lerner said his goal was to get the art museum reopened after being closed for more than a year during the pandemic.

Others involved with the museum and the California chapter of the Aluminaire House Foundation were working on setting up the structure, he said, but some delays caused him to get directly involved in setting it up. on the way to the project.

The main issues raised by the city may prevent visitors from walking through the Aluminaire’s house, even when it is rebuilt.

One is temperature control, he said. The building, made of aluminum and metal, has no air conditioning or insulation.

“You’ve been in Palm Springs probably longer than I have, and you know what Palm Springs summers are like,” Lerner said, making the 300 people in attendance laugh.

“A 120-degree metal box will be 140 degrees in the summer, and so there would be no way to get people through,” Lerner said.

When exhibited in the past, Lerner said, the Alumina House was housed inside another temperature-controlled structure.

The city was also concerned about making the home accessible to people with disabilities, Lerner said.

Knowing the city’s concerns, the museum needs to decide what needs to be done to be able to make this building something the museum can proudly display, Lerner said.

The museum is hiring an executive architect to handle all the consultants needed to make the Maison de l’Aluminaire a permanent structure, he said.

The museum is also working with DW Johnson to find out what materials can be reused and what needs to be redone, Lerner said. “It turns out the aluminum panels have been removed and reinstalled so many times that they need to be redone,” he said.

The museum is exploring ways for the public to access the house, which could include installing ramps that would allow people to see without entering, in the absence of air conditioning.

“The important thing is that we review the scope so that we can understand exactly what is needed,” Lerner said.

With an understanding of everything needed to build the house, Lerner said a realistic cost estimate could be determined and fundraising efforts could begin.

Some put the cost of the rebuild at $400,000, while others thought it might be something architecture students could do on weekends, “and it wouldn’t cost us anything,” Lerner said.

“Well, it turns out there’s a big difference between a building temporarily set up for an exhibition and a permanent building,” Lerner said.

It will likely cost $2 million or more, Lerner said.

Inheriting the Maison Aluminaire as a project upon arriving at the museum “is like someone leaving a puppy at your door,” he joked. “And you’re like, well, I have other plans, and I wasn’t expecting to raise a puppy right now. … But he’s a puppy. You can’t turn down a puppy,” he said. he said to the laughter of the audience.

More homes designated for historic preservation

People attending the Palm Springs Preservation Matters Symposium at the Convention Center on Saturday, April 23, 2022, look at some architectural models made by local students across the "Preservation through education" program.

Palm Springs Mayor Lisa Middleton welcomed everyone to the eighth annual symposium — the first held in person since the pandemic began.

“It’s so cool to see people in three dimensions again,” Middleton said.

She applauded the seven members of the Historic Places Preservation Council.

Palm Springs is known for its mid-century modern architecture, which attracts people from around the world who want to “see what we’ve built, what we’ve maintained and what we’ve opened up to the world,” Middleton said.

“Palm Springs, as we know, is internationally recognized for the architecture of our region. We are a name in architecture. For the treasure trove of diverse styles that visitors from around the world seek out when they come here,” Middleton said.

The City Council appoints members of the Preservation Council to identify, nominate and recommend potential historic sites and districts to the Council for Preservation.

Over the past year, the board has designated a dozen properties as historic sitesincluding six houses at Araby Cove, some of adobe brick with red clay roofs.

“It’s a very old neighborhood with a lot of character, a lot of charm…” said Katherine Hough, who chairs the board and lives in a house in Araby Cove, off S. Araby Drive, north of E. Palm Canyon Drive.

Among those designated as historic is one of the first houses built in Araby Cove.

Hough recounted how one of the designated houses, made of adobe bricks with a red clay roof, earned its nickname “El Dumpo Adobe”.

When Everett Dunlap bought the house in the late 1950s, it was around the time people were buying new, modern homes in Palm Springs.

“Mr. Dunlap’s friend joked with him and said, ‘You bought a bunch of mud,’ Hough said. “So the new owner named his house, ‘El Dumpo Adobe’,’ and he stayed, Hough said.

Another of the houses is a stone arts and crafts house built in 1925 – “one of the first houses built. It’s my favorite house; the nicest house in our neighborhood,” Hough said.

The Sutter Residence, designed by E. Steward Williams in 1960 on Ladera Circle and commonly known as the “Elvis Honeymoon Hideaway” because it was where Elvis and Priscilla Presley stayed after their marriage, was also designated a historic site this year.

The symposium continued on Sunday with additional presentations.

Hazel J. Edmonds

The author Hazel J. Edmonds