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Albert Kahn (March 21, 1869 - December 8, 1942) was the foremost American industrial architect of his day. He is sometimes called the "architect of Detroit", designing such major industrial works as the Ford River Rouge Complex, the largest in the world when built; as well as skyscrapers and office buildings in the city, and mansions in the suburbs. He built a practice with hundreds of architects; in 1937 his firm designed 19 percent of all architect-designed factories in the U.S.
In addition, under a unique contract in 1929, Kahn established a design and training office in Moscow, sending twenty-five staff there to train Soviet architects and engineers, and to design hundreds of industrial buildings under their first five-year plan. He was the only consulting architect on Soviet industrial construction. In 1943, the Franklin Institute posthumously awarded Kahn the Frank P. Brown Medal.
Kahn was born on March 21, 1869, to a Jewish family in Rhaunen, Kingdom of Prussia. Kahn immigrated as a child with his family to Detroit, Michigan in 1880, when he was 11. His father Joseph was trained as a rabbi; his mother Rosalie had a talent for the visual arts and music. Kahn had four brothers, including Moritz, who became an engineer; and Julius Kahn, an engineer and inventor, who later collaborated with him in his architectural firm. They also had two sisters.
Kahn quickly learned English and went to public school. As a teenager, he got a job at the architectural firm of Mason and Rice. In 1891 at age 22, he won a Rotch Traveling Fellowship, to study abroad in Europe, where he toured Germany, France, Italy, and Belgium with Henry Bacon, another young architecture student. Bacon later designed the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C..
In 1895, Kahn founded the architectural firm Albert Kahn Associates. Together with his younger brother Julius, he developed a new style of construction whereby reinforced concrete replaced wood in factory walls, roofs, and supports. Julius also developed numerous improvements to reinforced concrete. This material gave better fire protection and allowed large volumes of unobstructed interior. Packard Motor Car Company's factory, which Kahn designed in 1903, was the first to be built according to this principle.
In 1917 Kahn designed the massive, half-mile-long Ford River Rouge Complex in Dearborn, Michigan. The Rouge was developed as the largest manufacturing complex in the United States and, in its time, in the world. Its workforce peaked at 120,000 workers.
Under these contracts, during 1929-1932 and the Great Depression, Kahn's firm established a design and training bureau in Moscow to train and supervise Soviet architects and engineers. This bureau, under the government's Gosproektstroi, was headed by one of Albert Kahn's brothers, Moritz Kahn, and 25 other Kahn Associates staff, who worked in Moscow during this project. They trained more than 4,000 Soviet architects and engineers; and designed 521 plants and factories under the nation's first five-year plan.
Kahn frequently collaborated with architectural sculptor Corrado Parducci. In all, Parducci worked on about 50 Kahn commissions, including banks, office buildings, newspaper buildings, mausoleums, hospitals, and private residences.
In 1937, Albert Kahn Associates was responsible for 19 percent of all architect-designed factories in the U.S. In 1941, Kahn received the eighth-highest salary and compensation package in the U.S., $486,936, of which he paid 72% in tax.
Albert Kahn worked on more than 1,000 commissions from Henry Ford and hundreds for other automakers. Kahn designed showrooms for Ford Motor Company in several cities, including New York, Washington, D.C., and Boston. He died in Detroit on December 8, 1942.
All buildings are located in Detroit, unless otherwise indicated.
Dexter M. Ferry summer residence, 1890 (remodeling of an early 19th-century stone farmhouse), Unadilla, New York (known as Milfer Farm, held by Ferry heirs today; Kahn also designed the "Honeymoon Cottage" on the estate, one of the earliest prefabricated houses built)
Detroit Racquet Club, 1902 (Kahn designed the building, and the Vinton Company, whose offices were just down Woodbridge Street from the club, was awarded the general contract for erecting the facilities)
Frederick L. Colby, building permit issued 5/22/1901, finished 1902
^"Industry's Architect". Time. June 29, 1942. Retrieved . In 1928 the Soviet Government, after combing the U.S. for a man who could furnish the building brains for Russia's industrialization, offered the job to Kahn. Twenty-five Kahn engineers and architects went to Moscow. They had to start from scratch.
^Borth, Christy. Masters of Mass Production, pp. 109-10, 120-28, Bobbs-Merrill Co., Indianapolis, IN, 1945.
^Herman, Arthur. Freedom's Forge: How American Business Produced Victory in World War II, pp. 51-2, 96-8, 148, 200, 227-9, 242, Random House, New York, NY, 2012. ISBN978-1-4000-6964-4.