Remembering Michigan’s legendary architect Albert Kahn

Albert Kahn's legacy

Albert Kahn’s legacy, photo by .brianday.

“Architecture is 90 percent business and 10 percent art.”
~Albert Kahn

Legendary Detroit architect Albert Kahn died on December 8, 1942. The Albert Kahn entry at Wikipedia begins:

Kahn was born on March 21, 1869 in Rhaunen, Rhineland-Palatinate, Germany. Kahn came to Detroit in 1880 at the age of 11. His father Joseph was trained as a rabbi. His mother Rosalie had a talent for the visual arts and music. As a teenager, he got a job at the architectural firm of Mason and Rice. Kahn won a year’s scholarship to study abroad in Europe, where he toured with another young architecture student, Henry Bacon, who would later design the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C.

The architectural firm Albert Kahn Associates was founded in 1895. He developed a new style of construction where reinforced concrete replaced wood in factory walls, roofs, and supports. This gave better fire protection and allowed large volumes of unobstructed interior. Packard Motor Car Company’s factory built in 1907 was the first development of this principle.
The success of the Packard plant interested Henry Ford in Kahn’s designs. Kahn designed Ford Motor Company’s Highland Park plant, begun in 1909, where Ford consolidated production of the Ford Model T and perfected the assembly line. On Bob-Lo Island, Henry Ford had a dance hall designed and built by Albert Kahn, which was billed as the second largest in the world in a 1903 account…

Ten Albert Kahn designed buildings are recognized with Michigan historical markers:

    • Battle Creek Post Office
    • The Dearborn Inn
    • Detroit Arsenal Tank Plant in Warren, Michigan
    • Edsel and Eleanor Ford House in Grosse Pointe Shores, Michigan
    • Fisher Building
    • Delta Upsilon Fraternity, 1331 Hill St., Ann Arbor
    • Packard Motor Car Company factory
    • The Detroit News
    • The Detroit Free Press
    • Willow Run

Get the complete list of his firm’s buildings (including the Russell Industrial Center) at Wikipedia. The company that Kahn founded in 1895 is still in the business. There’s an interesting biography of Albert Kahn from Ford that notes that a Detroit sculptor recognized Albert’s artistic talent and allowed him to attend his art school free. However, after discovering that Kahn was color blind, the artist encouraged him to become an architect and secured him a job as an office boy.

Check this photo out bigger and see more in Brian’s Detroit Flavor slideshow. Coincidentally enough, Brian just let me know that this photo is being hung in a gallery today along with 10 other prints from Brian (and another 10 from two other michpics regulars,  Jon DeBoer and Jeff Gaydash) at Studio Couture gallery, 1433 Woodward Avenue. Opening night for the exhibition will be this Saturday from 6pm-9pm. Details right here!

More Michigan architects & architecture from Michigan in Pictures.

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