The term “Analysis” denotes the final projects each student has created in completion of the Path of Kahn course, summer 2014. Originally intending to make clear comparisons between two buildings: a Kahn factory and a core European factory, the nature of the course allowed us to continually update and refresh this end goal. During both organized and informal discussion during the travel, whether on a major building site, the train ride between countries, or a pub at the end of a long day of on-site visits, we evolved to decide that our literal “Analysis” would become the new final products. These findings sprung from the course mission, morphing into individualized projects that relate to Kahn and the course content in some manner or form. It is our intent that these findings will 1) follow us throughout the course of our architectural education, undergoing continual development or 2) directly contribute research to Professor Zimmerman’s proposal for an Albert Kahn exhibition at the University of Michigan in upcoming years.
The impetuous for developing these unique projects based on what surprised or struck us in Europe was attending the 2014 Architecture Biennale in Venice, Italy. This year’s Biennale, curated by architect Rem Koolhaas, very literally broke apart architecture through the lens of “Elements”—separate rooms each dedicated themselves to various things: the corridor, the floor, the entranceway, toilets, roofs, windows, etc. So why couldn’t we, then, pull our content apart into separate elements for study? Eventually, we reached the term “Analysis” which more aptly describes the way in which each individual has both tackled the course content, and then attempted to make sense of it through graphic or literary construction.
In many ways, we came to recognize our “target sites” as one foot in, one foot out of both architecture and building—our task being to parse out what this means and then to relate it back to Kahn. It poses a challenge to categorize the modernist architectural movement, as its only commonality seems to harbor value for ‘modern’ ideas and hostility towards traditional architectural form. Modernist architecture oftentimes expresses an interest in ‘science,’ an interest in expressing structural forms within external forms, or creating a relationship between form and function. The emergence of modernism therefore seems largely influenced by struggles for professional status between the engineer and the architect—something we both confirmed and further elaborated on during the course of our trip. While traveling, our group discovered the extent to which the factory typology is both just fascinating and fundamental to the history of modern architecture. While Walter Gropius creates a separation at the Bauhaus between the thing (a school) and its representation (as a factory—a factory for knowledge, so to speak), Kahn simultaneously collapses onto one another ‘the thing’and what ‘the thing’ represents. And then we wondered: does this very action make Kahn even more modern than an architect unanimously referenced in relation to the modernist movement? Yet for us, this very insight still remains secondary to the more pressing task of investigating, researching, and concluding what the connections between Kahn factories and European factories of the modernist movement mean. We confirmed that visiting industrial European masterpieces on site was the first and necessary step towards unpacking Amerikanismus and Kahn when we first met as a group, utterly committing ourselves to curiosity through travel. What we could not have anticipated, however, was that we would photograph bicycle sheds in each city, encounter tour guides that would alter—completely—our approach to the architecture at hand, be struck by scale, and find buildings re-appropriated and historically preserved with such different purposes than industry. We could not have arrived at these understandings from within the library or archive setting. Aside from making elemental comparisons between American and European factories as originally intended, the daily surprises and travel habits we synced into as a group were ultimately what led to new discovery and insight. In the final analysis, these became the very foundation for our findings and conclusions, which we brought back to the books to make sense of and to distribute to you here.