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Architect Albert Kahn

Albert Kahn Albert Kahn (1869-1942) was born in Rhaunen, Germany, the oldest son of a rabbi. The Kahns and their six children emigrated to the United States in 1880. Albert Kahn received his professional training as an apprentice to an architect with the firm of Mason and Rice in Detroit.

In 1891, Albert Kahn was awarded a scholarship for a year's travel in Europe. During his travels, Albert Kahn met the young architect Henry Bacon, and the two of them traveled together in Italy, France, Germany, and Belgium. In 1896, Albert Kahn married Ernestine Krolik and formed a partnership with George W. Nettleton and Alexander B. Trowbridge. Trowbridge left to become dean of the Cornell University School of Architecture in 1897, Nettleton died in 1900, and by 1902, Albert Kahn was in practice alone. Albert Kahn's practice is internationally known for industrial work; his more traditional designs are less well known.

Because Albert Kahn practiced in Detroit, Albert Kahn's career closely followed the growth of the automotive industry. Albert Kahn was introduced to Henry B. Joy in 1902. Joy was instrumental in Albert Kahn's selection for projects at the University of Michigan, and when Joy became manager of the Packard Motor Car Co. in 1903, Albert Kahn was named architect for the company. That same year, Henry Ford founded the Ford Motor Co.

Albert Kahn's early industrial work was conservative in nature. Nine factories were designed between 1903 and 1905 for the Packard Motor Car Co. The first concrete frame building dated from 1905. This advanced structural system depended on the manufacture of appropriate reinforcing rods. Although Albert Kahn's brother was an engineer and manufacturer of reinforcing, the Albert Kahn bar did not succeed in the market. However, the experience with the concrete structure put Albert Kahn's office in the forefront of industrial design.

Many industrial commissions followed. Rather than relegating the design to junior staff, Albert Kahn carefully designed the factories, using such designers as his associate Ernest Wilby to assist him. Albert Kahn's factories were the first to use steel sash in concrete framed structures. Albert Kahn helped develop buildings for continuously moving assembly lines. His factories were known for the maximum use of natural lighting and ventilation, using continuous strip windows, roof monitors, or skylights. Albert Kahn pioneered the use of long-span steel trusses, resulting in large floor areas free of columns.

There were a number of famous factories. Among the early ones was the Ford Motor Co. in Highland Park, Michigan (1909), which was under one roof. Among later buildings for Ford was u 1918 building with cantilevered balconies inside the factory, allowing easier handling of materials and parts Plants for the Burroughs Adding Machine Co. in Detroit (1919) and for the Fisher Body Co. in Cleveland, Ohio (1921), were other early works.

In 1917, Albert Kahn began the design of the Ford River Rouge Plant in Detroit. The first of the buildings (Building B) was 0.5 miles long, housing the entire assembly line for automobiles. In 1936, Albert Kahn designed the Chrysler Corp. plant in Detroit using large trusses and glass curtain walls. In 1938, Albert Kahn designed another Chrysler Corp. plant at Warren Michigan, for the HalfTon Truck Plant of the Dodge Division. It featured long-span trusses and roof monitors as well as glass curtain walls. This series of buildings was elegant in design, using advanced construction technology.

Albert Kahn's office designed many other buildings in addition to the industrial work. These included several buildings for the University of Michigan, office buildings such as the General Motors Building in Detroit, and luxury residential projects, particularly for the homes of automotive executives.

Albert Kahn's World War II buildings included the Glen Martin bomber plant at Baltimore and the Willow Run Bomber plant for Ford, later used for automobile manufacture and assembly. Because of wartime blackout regulations. the latter building was windowless and electrically lit.

Albert Kahn worked continuously up to 1942, completing 57 years of practice as an architect, and the firm continues under the name of Albert Kahn Associates, Inc. A high point of Albert Kahn's fame was his influence on European work. In 1929, a Soviet commission touring Detroit asked him to design a tractor plant in Stalingrad. This turned out so well that the firm built over 500 factories in the USSR in two years and trained many Soviet engineers and technicians to assist in the building program.