Friday, May 2, 2008

Visiting the Alcoa Aluminum House

This past Monday, I spent a couple of hours in the Alcoa Aluminum House in Brighton, taping an interview about 20th-century architecture with Brenda Tremblay of WXXI for the program "Need to Know." Brenda wanted to discuss some of the buildings that have been entered by the public into our "Archipedia" survey of recent past resources, so this was a perfect opportunity to visit a house I'd wanted to see for a while.

I spend a lot of time these days trying to encourage people to appreciate mid-century architecture, but this was the first post-World War II house I've been in that I thought I could actually own. I loved this house! Every detail is so well thought out; the interior and exterior spaces are integrated so seamlessly; the rich colors that permeate the interior are gloriously aglow, even on a dreary day like we had on Monday.

The owners bought the house last summer, when they were out to breakfast, stopped in at the open house (like me, they go to open houses for entertainment) and decided on the spot to buy the house - although they were almost finished rehabilitating their 19th-century Corn Hill house and had not intended to move for some time. They report that they love living in the house and especially appreciate the easy flow from inside to outside.

The house was designed by architect Charles Goodman for the Alcoa Aluminum Company, which faced a post-war surplus of aluminum and sought new commercial uses for the material. The post-war housing boom presented many opportunities, and in addition to aluminum siding, trim and windows, the company experimented with new house designs that would integrate aluminum. The design combines aluminum with brick, wood and glass, demonstrating how the material can blend with more traditional materials; in addition to aluminum panels on the exterior and aluminum window and door frames, the house uses aluminum in innovative and colorful ways.

Despite the company's glossy advertising brochure and sales offices throughout the country, just 23 of these houses were built, apparently because they were too expensive for most families. The one in Brighton is a designated Town of Brighton landmark, and has survived with very few alterations.

Brenda Tremblay also interviewed the owners of the house, and got footage of two other buildings that have been entered into our online survey: the fabulous late-1960s gas station on Stonewood near Lake Avenue, and Donuts Delite. The program airs tonight on channel 21 at 9:00 and Sunday the 4th at 12:30 p.m., and will be available via podcast; the architecture segment will be a short piece about halfway through the program.

Posted by Katie Eggers Comeau, Advocacy Coordinator


Andy Eggers said...

Wow, it does look beautiful. Are there more pictures anywhere? I'd like to see the exterior.

The Landmark Society of Western New York said...

There are - here is the Flickr site of the homeowner:

They have also posted the original sales brochure. You'll see that the exterior is not as eye-catching as the interior, but it is still interesting.


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An aluminum home? That is very neat!

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