Meet Palm Springs Architect Albert Frey

Tramway Gas Station, Palm Springs. The station built in 1965 now serves as the Palm Springs Visitor Center. | Steve Cukrov

Albert Frey was born in Zurich, Switzerland on October 18, 1903, and was known for being one of the most influential architects in the Palm Springs area.  He studied architecture at the Institute of Technology in Winterthur, Switzerland, and later worked with Le Corbusier, who became a friend and influence of Frey.

Tramway Gas Station, Palm Springs. The station built in 1965 now serves as the Palm Springs Visitor Center. | Steve Cukrov

One of his most famous designs is the Palm Springs Tramway Gas Station, built in 1965, and which is now the Palm Springs Visitor Center; a landmark that he and Robson C. Chambers designed together.

Frey and Chambers also designed the The Palm Springs Aerial Tramway Valley Station, which is only a few minutes’ drive from the visitor center. From here, visitors can take the rotating tram from Coachella Valley up the San Jacinto Mountains.

Palm Springs Aerial Tramway. Closeup of a tram car docking at the Valley Station. | Steve Cukrov

On a side note, the tram takes visitors from the Valley Station to the Palm Springs Mountain Station, which was built by another distinctive mid-century modern architect, E. Stewart Williams, in 1961.

Other notable buildings by Frey include the Raymond Loewy House and the Salton Bay Yacht Club.

Frey was deeply influenced by Palm Springs and the desert in general, and once wrote to his mentor, La Corbusier, “It provides the rare pleasure of combining a magnificent natural environment with being a center for interesting and varied activities. Moreover, the sun, the pure air and the simple forms of the desert create perfect conditions for architecture.”

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