Palm Springs posh sprang up in a single moment and shared a single architectural dream: desert modernismlow, glassy, horizontal, sleek. It remains perfect.
Kurt Andersen, New Yorker
Frey is a guru who doesn't preach. His belief in a timeless ideal, modernism's truth of function and materials, is evident in every aspect of the design of his house.
Diana Ketcham, House & Garden
A producer at TBWA Chiat/Day in Los Angeles (and an Emmy winner for Apple's "Think Different" campaign), author Jennifer Golub chooses to honor the guru of the desert modernism Albert Frey mainly through images, rather than words. From his photo album, 8mm films, and the photography of Julius Shulman and Charles Wittenmeier, Golub has constructed a pictorial record of the architect's creative process. To build his 1941 and 1953 houses in Palm Springs, California, Frey, now 95, studied the position of the sun for a year and each site's slope and terrain at least as closely. Several cross-country trips in the 1930s also influenced his sense of aesthetics, color, and functionality. The book flows seamlessly, almost intuitively, and allows the reader to put the pieces together, much as Frey did. (For the more literal-minded, captions are provided at the end of the book.) Golub has also included tow interviews with Frey from 1994 and 1995 which give another perspective of the seemingly reluctant icon. Asked about his principles of design, Frey says simply: "Respect for nature. Establish certain principles. Take advantage of the modern techniques, manufacturers, and what the engineers invent."
Albert Frey died in his sleep at home on Saturday, November 14, a month after he had completed a three-year collaboration on
Albert Frey Houses 1 + 2 (Princeton Architectural Press). He was 95. A member of Le Corbusier's atelier, Albert was known for his detailing of the Villa Savoye. He came to the United States in 1930 and brought high Modernism to the desert outside Palm Springs, where he realized residences and civic structures that synthesized his passions for technology and nature in to a romantic ideal of American Modernism-all unaffected sparseness and elegant thrift.
Albert documented the construction and completion of his projects himself in photographs and 8mm films. His archive photos, particularly of his travels across America, embody his lifelong fascination with the elegance and efficiency of modern materials and the intersection of the natural and manufactured worlds. But Albert was no futurist, despite the obvious morphological similarities. He continually looked to nature, asking how he could take its highest principles-economy, discipline, functionalism, beauty-and make them fundamental to his architecture.
He was still in touch with the colors, forms, and rhythms of nature in his nineties. Visitors to Albert's desert home in recent years stood under a serene blue ceiling that reflected ripples from the pool. The white cotton duck slipcovers were cool to the touch. Albert wore a yellow shirt. Or a peach one with white slacks. If you were there early, he might be feeding the quail. If you stayed toward noon, he placed vegetable bits on a rock for the squirrel and lizard who came daily. As the sun intensified, Albert would draw the yellow curtains and politely ask you to leave so that he could take his nap.
When Swiss-born Architect Albert Frey moved to the United States, in 1930, he traded in the vertical grandeur of his native land for the endless horizon of the California desert. Heavily influenced by the flora, fauna and landscape of Palm Springs, he built a house for himself there in 1941, and followed it up with another in 1964. Praxis's design for
Albert Frey: Houses 1+2 won praise for its spot-on appropriateness.
"It's the embodiment of the architecture," said deWilde, who noted that the book's emphatically horizontal trim size "mimics the landscape and the houses." Photographs by Frey, Julius Shulman and Charles Wittenmeierin elegiac black-and-white and muted colors-emphasize the architect's thoughtful blending of nature and culture and show the evolving, experimental character of his "living laboratories." Praxis's type choice, Akzidenz Grotesk Extended was also met with approval by the jurors, who felt that its spareness echoed the desert's stark beauty.
The colors of the desert-and Frey's architecture-are a visual leitmotif throughout. Soft yellows, greens, pinks and blues punctuate the photographs and architectural documentation. "I wouldn't use that color if you paid me," Doyle cracked, in reference to the peachy-pink hue of the book's cover. "But it really does work here."-I.D. Annual Design Review
I.D. Annual Design Review