Landmark Aluminaire House Seeks a Home

Architecture, East, Preservation
Wednesday, July 10, 2013
The Aluminaire House, designed in 1931 by Kocher and Frey. (Flickr/Jenosale)

The Aluminaire House, designed in 1931 by Kocher and Frey. (Jenosale/Flickr)

The landmark Aluminaire House is homeless yet again. The situation is not so out of the ordinary, however, as preservationists and communities have recently been confronted with the futures of these pioneering modernist structures. In this particular battle, a team of architects is hoping to relocate the historic house, which has already been disassembled and rebuilt three times, to a vacant lot in Sunnyside Gardens, a landmarked district in Queens. The proposal to reassemble the house as part of a low-rise residential development at 39th Avenue and 50th Street is facing uncertainty from residents who would prefer the site be turned into a community park.

The Aluminaire House. (Flickr/Jenosale)

The Aluminaire House. (Jenosale/Flickr)

Architects A. Lawrence Kocher and Albert Frey designed Aluminaire as a case study in 1931. Constructed of donated materials and built in ten days, the first all-metal, prefabricated house in the country debuted at the Allied Arts and Industry and Architectural League Exhibition. Subsequently, the house was sold to architect Wallace K. Harrison who disassembled and moved it to Long Island. New York Institute of Technology then reassembled the structure on its campus, which has since closed, leaving the structure to the Aluminaire House Foundation, which has disassembled and stored it. The Foundation now seeks a low-rise, high-density New York neighborhood to display the building as it was initially intended – as a low cost urban home prototype.

Residents are concerned that the house’s design does not belong with the area’s traditional brick housing scheme. Still, Sunnyside Gardens and Aluminaire have a history together—they were both featured in a 1932 MoMA modern architecture exhibit. Reconstructing the house in Sunnyside would actually place Aluminaire within its planned context.

The project embarked on its lengthy journey through the public approval process at Community Board 2’s Land Use Committee meeting last month. The foundation is scheduled to present to the commission in September. For now, the house is in storage.

2 Responses to “Landmark Aluminaire House Seeks a Home”

  1. Mike Novak says:

    The land in question has been a park for many decades.

    It was Landmarked as a park.

    The current owner of the plot thought he could develop it with housing.


    Lets look at the winners and losers here.

    WINNER: Architect Michael Schwarting…He finally gets rid of the Aluminum Albatross.

    WINNER: Architect Laura Heim…She gets a feather in her cap for “saving” the Aluminum Albatross.

    WINNER: The current owner of the plot who thinks this will get him a variance so he can circumvent the Landmarks Designation and put housing on what clearly is park space.

    LOSER: Sunnyside Gardens. We get stuck with the Aluminum Albatross. We are responsible for its maintenance and security. Its will only be open a few days a year, by appointment only.

    The Aluminum Albatross is an eyesore. It needs a home, just not in the brick and mortar neighborhood of Sunnyside Gardens.

  2. bring the house to little rock arkansas says:

    Would love to see in little rock near down town

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