Desert Revenant

Here, modesty gives way to heroic fragility.

Modesty is a word often used to describe the work of Albert Frey, a Swiss transplant to the desert (by way of Le Corbusier). This too can be said of the exhibition and accompanying catalog, Albert Frey: Inventive Modernist, now open at the Palm Springs Art Museum’s Architecture and Design Center. The mostly chronological display of images, artifacts, and models is not too big for its britches. The curation is elegant and reassuring. The chromatic palette (faded blues, creams, yellow) is framed by reimagined building details, here analogized as display armatures.

Frey’s Aluminaire House of 1931, initially exhibited in New York and subsequently moved to multiple sites on Long Island, has been reconstructed in the museum parking lot. Here, modesty gives way to heroic fragility. What reads as a self-assured volume from afar breaks down into glistening texture up close: The aluminum panels are corrugated and thin. Hammered into place, their ridges pinch and buckle at nailed joints. These days, “desert modernism” has become an architectural catchall for virtually anything flat-roofed with generous eaves. The Aluminaire is the real deal.

Login or create an account to read three free articles and receive our newsletter.

from $5/month