Stay at the Frey – Modernist Architect of Palm Springs
Learn more about one of Palm Spring's first mid-century modern buildings
By Christina Cary
In photographs, he appeared stoic. Influenced by the De Stijl architectural style with a focus on function, color and distinct lines, Swiss architect Albert Frey profoundly influenced post-WWII Palm Springs; Hollywood elite and vacationers alike. His roughly two-hundred regional architectural designs exemplify a harmonious balance between material and nature. Frey’s’ discipline as a virtuoso of architecture stemmed from his training under the esteemed Le Corbusier, (Swiss-French architect with a post-World War I focus on industry and progress). His avant-garde perspective divorced from Conservative dogma defined Frey as the modernist pioneer of Palm Springs.
Frey chose to settle in sunny Palm Springs in 1939 due to his working relationship with A. Lawrence Kocher. His heart beat in tune with the majestic San Jacinto Mountains and mellifluous sounds of nature, a stark change from the urban blare of New York. He was honorably directed to oversee the building process of the Kocher-Samson Building, a dual office-apartment space, (Kocher represents A. Lawrence Kocher’s brother, Dr. J.J. Kocher).
The now Kocher-Samson Historic Home and Vacation Rental defines desert modernism. Its rich symbolism is attributed to the international design style, an inherent connection to Frey’s European roots. Beaming with asymmetrical detail, a rooftop deck and a corrugated roof, it’s the epitome of form meets function. Centrally located uptown in the heart of Palm Springs, it has been renovated to let others stay at the Frey. Understanding its history is paramount to engaging with the space. As a most prestigious Class 1 historic building, it combines the aforementioned moxie of Frey with the amenities of a modern hotel including a patio dinette set and lounge chairs, kitchen, laundry, pool and parking areas.
Located at 766 North Palm Canyon Drive, above Bon Vivant Palm Springs vintage store, the renovated Kocher-Samson Historic Home and Vacation Rental retains its original floorplan, elevated by a TV plus an orderly arrangement of books and board games for your pleasure. Burnt orange angular canopies make the veranda come alive. Its sleekness is complemented by the eventful main street area, footsteps away.
The original 1930s design of the building stood alone surrounded by mountain views and a square planter box. Its white rectangular exterior of endless windows, bordered in hunter green, captivated the eye in grandeur of warm natural light. Impeccable cubed wood detail and concrete floors unified the nest. An open setting of exposed shelves, leather sitting chair, humble dining area and two twin-sized beds symmetrically spaced in the bedroom achieved a new vision for the home.
The lasting impression of his commercial and private projects is a testament to Frey’s gift of progress to Palm Springs throughout the 1950s to 1970s, in particular. A few of his other most notable works include the Palm Springs City Hall (1952), North Shore Yacht Club Salton Sea (1958) and the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway Valley Station (1963, now the visitor’s center). Frey saw rocks as a tool rather than a roadblock. His meticulous study and earth tone compositions illuminated the raw desert terrain. His profound wisdom is further evident by his use of weather-appropriate materials for an arid climate such as metal, glass, cement and steel. In the absence of a licensed architect and Frey’s manifestation of desert modernism, Palm Springs may have been left unpolished and unexplored.
Enjoy fresh air at the Kocher-Samson Historic Home and Vacation Rental and become inspired as Frey once did. His enduring influence continues to shine as we experience an influx of visitors from across the globe, many of whom travel from afar to experience the masterpiece of modernism. Shall you be next to stay at the Frey?