Albert Frey (/ˈfreɪ/ FRAY; October 18, 1903 – November 14, 1998) was a Swiss-born architect who established a style of modernist architecture centered on Palm Springs, California, United States, that came to be known as “desert modernism”.
In September, 1930, Frey returned to New York from another visit to France. Frey, the first architect in America to have worked directly with Le Corbusier, now began working with the American architect A. Lawrence Kocher who was also the managing editor of Architectural Record. Their collaboration would last until 1935, and they would reunite for a brief collaboration again in 1938.
Although only four buildings were built by the pair, they contributed significantly to the American modernist movement through their numerous articles published in Architectural Record on urban planning, the modernist aesthetic, and technology. One collaboration was the 1931 Aluminaire House, designed for an exhibition, and later sold to New York architect Wallace K. Harrison for $1000. Harrison used it as a guest house on his Long Island property for years. Another of their commissions was an office/apartment dual-use building for Kocher’s brother, Dr. J. J. Kocher of Palm Springs. This project introduced Frey to the California desert, which was to become his home and the backdrop for most of his subsequent work.
From 1935 to 1937, Frey worked with John Porter Clark (1905–1991), a Cornell-educated architect, under the firm name of Van Pelt and Lind Architects as both were yet unlicensed in California. In 1937, Frey briefly returned to the east coast to work on the Museum of Modern Art in New York. While in New York, Frey married Marion Cook, a writer he had met in Palm Springs. In 1938, Frey and his wife went to France and returned to America on the Normandie, a floating art deco masterpiece.
Upon completion of his work on the Museum of Modern Art in 1939, Frey and Marion returned to California to resume his collaboration with Clark, which would continue for nearly twenty more years. Frey and Marion divorced in 1945 and neither remarried.
At the end of World War II Palm Springs’ population almost tripled, and the city experienced a building boom. Known as an escape for the Hollywood elite and a winter haven for east coast industrialists, Palm Springs emerged post-war as a resort community for a broader segment of the American populace with more leisure time than any previous generation.
Frey and Clark were well positioned to capitalize on this, and both the city and their firm benefited from an unprecedented period of construction. Significant buildings by Frey during this period include the following:
Cree House II
Frey’s private residences, Frey House I and Frey House II
Loewy House, built for industrial designer Raymond Loewy
North Shore Beach and Yacht Club at North Shore, Salton Sea – renovated (May 2010)
Palm Springs Aerial Tramway Valley Station
Palm Springs City Hall (1952)
Salton Bay Yacht Club, Salton City
Villa Hermosa (1946) – updated in 1956 by Frey & renovated in 2003
Tramway Gas Station, with an iconic “flying wedge” canopy, at the entrance to the Palm Springs Tramway, now used as a visitors center.
Frey died in Palm Springs, aged 95, and was buried at Welwood Murray Cemetery.