On Monday, residents of Sunnyside and Woodside in Queens started sounding the anti-development alarms over news that a low-rise residential development could be built on land they hoped to turn into a community park. Details on the project were scarce?all we knew was that it somehow included the historic Aluminaire House?but we reached out to the designers, Campani and Schwarting Architects, who sent along a lot more information. As it turns out, the entire development stemmed from needing to find a new home for the Aluminaire House, which was designed as the first all-metal prefabricated dwelling by Lawrence Kocher and Albert Frey for an architectural exhibition in 1931. It was last located on the Central Islip campus of the New York Institute of Technology (shown there in the photo), but when NYIT shutdown that much of that campus, the Aluminaire needed to move.
The house's foundation wanted a site within a low-rise, high-density New York neighborhood to showcase the building as it was originally intended, "an easily constructed, low cost, modern urban house prototype." The site at 39th Avenue and 50th Street in Queens was exactly what they were looking for, plus more. Sunnyside Gardens, which sits across from the proposed location, and the Aluminaire House actually have a history together?they were both included in a 1932 MoMA exhibition about modern architecture (MoMA's archive of press releases has details about the exhibition). Reconstructing the three-story house here would allow the Aluminaire to be built within its intended context for the very first time.
The house has a front porch, garage, double-height living room, two-bedrooms, two-bathrooms, and a planted terrace. According to the architects, it would function as a museum in its new location, and the accompanying eight-unit residential building would provide income for the house foundation and "serve as an appropriate backdrop for the Aluminaire House and connection to it adjacent context." The new building would echo both the architecture of Sunnyside Gardens, with terracotta cladding with a brick pattern, and the Aluminaire House, with terraces and facade panels.
While the story behind the project is certainly more interesting than most developments, we doubt it will sway the park-wanting neighbors. The site is located within the Sunnyside Gardens Historic District, and the project begins its long trek through the public approval process tonight at Community Board 2's Land Use Committee meeting.
· Plan To Develop Empty Sunnyside Lot Upsets the Neighbors [Curbed]
· CAS Architects [official]
· Aluminaire House [WikiArquitectura]