Modernity and do-it-yourself | Miguel Ángel Díaz Camacho

Canvas House, Albert Frey

They tell that Albert Frey got fond of the construction of canoes of curled wood and canvas during his jouth1. We imagine the emotion of making the framework based on frames, strakes and parquet floor, as well as the moment to stick suitably sly the canvases top and low, of different weight, outlined by means of thin moldings of bronze and clinched to the framework with tacks of copper. Before 2 discovered the desert in Palm Springs, California, before the steel and the glass2, Frey knew this marine construction in dry proceeding from the first naval technology: perhaps can someone refuse to construct hereby?

In 1934 the Department of New Uses of the Cotton contacted with A. Lawrence Kocher in Architectural Record, with the aim to promote the industry of the cotton as viable material in the construction of housings. The own Kocher assumes like own the task and requests a small experimental housing his partner at the time, the architect Albert Frey, with the only condition to use the cotton in all the constructive possible situations: the industry would donate the different canvases to prove his resistance, behavior and permanence. On the panels of wood of secuoya arranged in diagonal, one proceeds to the fixation of thick and impermeable linens of canvas, structured in three horizontal placed bands from the bottom up. The interior of the housing also is solved by paraments and pavements of other types of canvas: a white pomp for the framework3.

The house and the ship have exchanged technologies and components with certain naturalness in the past. Peter Cook remembers how his grandparents were telling him on the reconstruction of ships with the covers of the houses (and vice versa) in the times of shortage, ends of the S. The XIXth in his natal Southend-on-Sea. There is interested here the ephemeral and exchangeable componente of the light present technologies in both structures, the ingenuity of the retornability or the establishment of flexible and anonymous systems of collective construction: the “soft architecture” 4. It encourages to find such a delicious instant of the history of the architecture as the one that represents the house Kocher, a moment before the industrialization in which still present technologies are imported in the handcrafted construction of objects, as a canoe, to produce a completely new architecture, in this case learned directly in the study of Le Corbusier: a common exercise to the Modernity and the Do-it-yourself 5.

Miguel Ángel Díaz Camacho. Doctor Architect

Madrid. april 2014


1 Frey spent part of his youth in Zúrich, where it forms a part of the home team of oar. Later it moves to Winterthur, Switzerland, to join the School of Engineering up to 25 years, when it moves to Paris to be employed at the project of the Villa Savoye at the study of Le Corbusier. See Singer, Mike, “The Father of Desert Modernism, Albert Frey, at Palm Springs”, The American Institute of Architects,

2 The Albert Frey’s first visit to Palm Springs also takes place in 1934. Impressed by the force of the desert, the mountains or the local rocks, it establishes there his residence photographed by Julius Shulman in 1953.

3 For more information about the construction of the house Kocher. See F.R.S. York, The Modern House, London, The Architectural Press, 1935.

4 Peter Cook refers to this model of light construction, local technology, collective character and low environmental impact as soft architecture. The hard architecture would be at the time weighed, would answer to the interest of the only person, of monumental character would represent to the power, etc., and it puts as example El Escorial Peter Cook, ESAYT, UCJC, conference october, 2, 2009.

5 The French origin of the term turns out to be nice, bricolage, and interests especially his condition of manual activity without professional participation. See Dictionary of the Spanish Language RAE.

Miguel Ángel Díaz Camacho

Doctor en Arquitectura, Decano de la Facultad de Tecnología y Ciencia UCJC. Presidente de la Asociación Sostenibilidad y Arquitectura,  perteneciente al Consejo Superior de los Colegios de Arquitectos de España. Director de MADC Arquitectos, estudio profesional con premios en concursos nacionales e internacionales, en la actualidad desarrolla proyectos en España y Noruega. Escritor y crítico de arquitectura, es autor de los libros “Párrafos de Arquitectura. Core(oh)grafías” (2016) y “Arquitectura y Cambio Climático” (2018).

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