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Meet the Architects Who Saved the 1931 Aluminaire House

Michael Schwarting and Frances Campani saved the 1931 Aluminaire House from the scrap heap, cared decades for its existence, and gifted the architectural world with an icon of modernist design.

$15 (1 hr)

Category: Presentation, Talk, CAMP Theater

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For 37 years, Michael Schwarting and Frances Campani were steadfast in their efforts to save Aluminaire and find a permanent home for it. They have a story to tell!
Architects Lawrence Kocher and Albert Frey conceived and constructed the Aluminaire House for the Allied Arts and Industry and Architectural League Exhibition of 1931 in New York City. It was intended to display standard mass-produced building materials, donated by the manufacturers. Albert Frey conceived it as the “a”-“luminaire” house (concerned with light and air), addressing issues of new materials, affordable construction and housing.
At the end of its week on exhibit, with over 100,000 visitors, the architect Wallace Harrison bought the house and relocated it on his property in Huntington, Long Island. In 1932 it was chosen by Hitchcock and Johnson as one of the few American examples for MoMA’s first architectural exhibition, and simultaneously published in their influential book, The International Style.
In 1987 the House was threatened with demolition. Michael Schwarting and Frances Campani, architecture professors at the NY Institute of Technology, negotiated an agreement with the property owner to save it.  Procuring a grant, the House was recorded and dismantled by their architecture students and moved into storage on campus by 1989. Then began a slow process of reconstruction, again with classes of architecture students.
In 2004, NYIT closed most of the Central Islip, Long Island campus, relocating its programs to the Manhattan and Old Westbury campuses, including Architecture. Threatened by vandalism on the near-empty campus, in 2012 it was decided to dismantle the House and put it in storage until an appropriate site could be found. In 2014 Schwarting and Campani were invited to speak at Modernism Week about their years-long work in saving Aluminaire. Upon learning that Aluminaire was still without a permanent home, a group of concerned local architecture enthusiasts came together to encourage the architects to consider Palm Springs as a perfect location.
Long story short, after years of ups and downs in securing a permanent location, the architects gifted the House to the Palm Springs Art Museum in 2020 for their permanent collection. The museum successfully worked to fund and reassemble the House, which now stands reassembled on museum grounds. A happy end to Schwarting’s and Campani’s 37 year-long effort to save Aluminaire.


Things to Know
This event is for ages 12 and older.

Modernism Week Theater at CAMP is located at the south end of the hotel’s central atrium
Ample free public parking is available.
Enter underground parking at Hyatt on Palm Canyon Drive or in the multi-level public garage across from the Palm Springs Art Museum
Handicap parking is available.
This event is wheelchair accessible.

The organizer of this event is Modernism Week.

Event Check-in Location
Modernism Week Theater At CAMP
285 N Palm Canyon Dr
Palm Springs, CA 92262
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Photo Credits: Mark Davis – Palm Springs Art Museum

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