AMERICANISM


Americanism and Albert Kahn: European Descents of Kahn’s Industrial Architecture

– Emine Kayim

Highland Park vs. Fiat Lingotto:

The Fiat Lingotto factory (1920-1923) in Turin, described as “the most nearly futurist building ever built” by Reyner Banham, replicate Kahn’s Highland Park Plant (1909) in its planning and structure. One major difference between these two industrial buildings is that “the Ford sequence is flipped upside down, so that in Turin raw materials enter at the ground level and are processed progressively up the fice floors until the completed car emerges on the roof, where it speeds around a testing track and descends down a helix to the ground.”[1]

Packard vs. Van Nelle 

Kees van der Leeuw, owner of the company Van Nelle, visited Ford plants in Detroit in 1911 and 1926. The influence of Kahn’s architecture is “recognized both by the developer and architects” and leads to direct references such as “release of solid concrete walls for the sake of a transparent glass façade”, “vertically organized production process” and “the use of mechanized chain assembly”. [2]

Glenn Martin vs. National Gallery

Mies van der Rohe “began a process of assimilation of the work of Albert Kahn” in 1942, after he has been introduced to the1939 George Nelson book ‘The industrial architecture of Albert Kahn”. For his projection of a Concert Hall with his IIT students, “Mies superimposed his elementarist space concept to an image of the interior of the Glenn Martin Assembly Plant by Albert Kahn”. The parallelism in the work of both architects is evident throughout the next works of Mies.[3]

General Motors vs. IG Farben

The IG Farben Building (1928-1930) in Frankfurt directly imitates Kahn’s plan for the General Motors Building in Detroit (1917-21). Poelzig employs the six wing building organization connected by a central corridor, which provides maximum natural light and ventilation, similar to the offices at GM.

River Rouge vs. Fiat Lingotto

Giovanni Agnelli, one of Fiat’s founding members, visited the Ford Motor Company Plant in both 1902 and 1912, drawing influence from American ideas about linear and vertical production and use of the assembly line. Kahn’s River Rouge (1917-1928) exemplifies a shift from the multi-story model previously used in factories like Packard and Highland Park, to the single-story shed for consolidating various production processes more efficiently into one continuous space. Beginning construction at nearly the same time, Fiat Lingotto factory employed vast scale to accommodate American concepts of linear production within certain spaces.

[1] Terry Smith, “Albert Kahn: High Modernism and Actual Functionalism”, in Albert Kahn: Inspiration for the Modern, Brian Carter (ed.), University of Michigan Museum of Art, University of Michigan, 2001, p. 35.

[2] Pancorbo, L., Martín, I. “Architecture as technical object. Industrial architecture of Albert Kahn”. VLC arquitectura, vol. 1(2), 2014, p. 29.

[3] Eva Jiménez Gómez, “Structural Transfers:
Mies – Kahn – Wachsmann”, Cercle d’Arquitectura, vol. 7 (3), 2013.

Images & Credits

01: Albert Kahn, Packard Motor Car Company plant, Detroit, 1903, original construction demolished (courtesy the National Automotive History Collection, Detroit Public Library) –in: Chris Meister,  “Albert Kahn’s Partners in Industrial Architecture”, Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians, Vol. 72, No. 1 (March 2013), p. 85.

02: Packard Motor Car Company plant, 1910 interior view showing original heavy timber construction (courtesy the National Automotive History Collection, Detroit Public Library) –in: Chris Meister,  “Albert Kahn’s Partners in Industrial Architecture”, Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians, Vol. 72, No. 1 (March 2013), p. 86.

03: Office of Albert Kahn, elevations and section of a Packard Motor Car Company plant structure utilizing the Kahn System (from Reinforced Concrete in Factory Construction [New York: Atlas Portland Cement Company, 1907]) –in: Chris Meister,  “Albert Kahn’s Partners in Industrial Architecture”, Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians, Vol. 72, No. 1 (March 2013), p. 91.

04: Packard Motor Car Company Plant, 1910 interior view showing Kahn System construction (courtesy the National Automotive History Collection, Detroit Public Library) –in: Chris Meister,  “Albert Kahn’s Partners in Industrial Architecture”, Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians, Vol. 72, No. 1 (March 2013), p. 91.

05: Layout of Ford’s Rouge Plant, at its maturity in 1941. Neg. 75271, Ford Motor Company Archives, Dearborn, Michigan. –in: Lindy Biggs, The Rational Factory, Johns Hopkins University Press, 2002, pp. 148-149.

06: Ford Motor Company, River Rouge plant, Dearborn, Michigan, early 1950s (b/w photo) Retrieved from: Bridgeman Education, Image number: PNP354059

07: Ford Motor Company plant, River Rouge, west of Detroit, Michigan, c. 1930s. Built between 1917 and 1925, it became the model for assembly-line production, turning parts at one end into finished cars at the other. –in: Ford Motor Company plant, River Rouge, west of Detroit, Michigan, c. 1930s. River -in: Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved 19 October 2014, from  http://www.britannica.com.proxy.lib.umich.edu/EBchecked/media/88738

08: Packard Motor Car Company, Detroit, Michifan. Building No:10, Elevations, 1905. -in: Federico Bucci, Albert Kahn: Architect of Ford, Princeton Architectural Press, 1993, p. 32.

09: Kahn system of reinforced concrete, detail. -in: Federico Bucci, Albert Kahn: Architect of Ford, Princeton Architectural Press, 1993, p. 32.

10: Packard Motor Car Company, Detroit, Michigan. General view of the complex in a watercolor by Jules Guerin. -in: Federico Bucci, Albert Kahn: Architect of Ford, Princeton Architectural Press, 1993, p. 34.

11: Ford Motor Company, Highland Park Plant, Highland Park, Michigan. Photograph from the exterior. -in: Federico Bucci, Albert Kahn: Architect of Ford, Princeton Architectural Press, 1993, p. 45.

12: Ford Motor Company, Highland Park Plant, Highland, Michigan, Elevations, 1909. -in: Federico Bucci, Albert Kahn: Architect of Ford, Princeton Architectural Press, 1993, p. 40.

12-1: Ford Motor Company, Highland Park Plant, Highland Park, Michigan. Floor Plan, 1909. -in: Federico Bucci, Albert Kahn: Architect of Ford, Princeton Architectural Press, 1993, p. 41.

13: Ford Motor Company, Highland Park Plant, Highland Park, Michigan. Aerial view of the plant, 1915. -in: Federico Bucci, Albert Kahn: Architect of Ford, Princeton Architectural Press, 1993, p. 44.

14: Ford Motor Company, Highland Park Plant, Highland Park, Michigan. The building annexed to the original factory, interior view, 1918. -in: Federico Bucci, Albert Kahn: Architect of Ford, Princeton Architectural Press, 1993, p. 47.

15: Ford Motor Company, Highland Park Plant, Highland Park, Michigan. Photograph from the exterior. -in: Federico Bucci, Albert Kahn: Architect of Ford, Princeton Architectural Press, 1993, p. 45.

16: Ford Motor Company, B Building, River Rouge Plant, Dearborn, Michigan. Section and elevetions, 1917. -in: Federico Bucci, Albert Kahn: Architect of Ford, Princeton Architectural Press, 1993, p. 51.

17: Ford Motor Company, River Rouge Plant, Dearborn, Michigan. Aerial view, 1938. -in: Federico Bucci, Albert Kahn: Architect of Ford, Princeton Architectural Press, 1993, p. 55.

18 / 21: Ford Motor Company, Glass Plant, River Rouge Plant, Dearborn, Michigan. Exterior view, 1922. -in: Federico Bucci, Albert Kahn: Architect of Ford, Princeton Architectural Press, 1993, p. 56.

19: Glenn L. Martin Company, Baltimore, Maryland. General view, 1937-1939. -in: Federico Bucci, Albert Kahn: Architect of Ford, Princeton Architectural Press, 1993, p. 103.

20: Glenn L. Martin Company, Baltimore, Maryland. Interior, 1937-1939. -in: Federico Bucci, Albert Kahn: Architect of Ford, Princeton Architectural Press, 1993, p. 103.

22: Highland Park Plant, Highland Park, Michigan. Street view, ca. 1929. Photo: Courtesy of Albert Kahn Associates, Inc. –in: Albert Kahn: Inspiration for the Modern, Brian Carter (ed.), University of Michigan Museum of Art, University of Michigan, 2001, s. 19.

23: Rouge Plant, Dearborn, Michigan. Undated photograph from the collections of Henry Ford Museum & Greenfield Village and Ford Motor Company. –in: Albert Kahn: Inspiration for the Modern, Brian Carter (ed.), University of Michigan Museum of Art, University of Michigan, 2001, s. 21.

24: Highland Park Plant, Highland Park, Michigan. View from the exterior, 1913. From the collections of Henry Ford Museum & Greenfield Village and Ford Motor Company. –in: Albert Kahn: Inspiration for the Modern, Brian Carter (ed.), University of Michigan Museum of Art, University of Michigan, 2001, s. 16.

25: Highland Park Plant, Highland Park, Michigan. View from the interior, 1910. Photo courtesy of Albert Kahn Associates, Inc. –in: Albert Kahn: Inspiration for the Modern, Brian Carter (ed.), University of Michigan Museum of Art, University of Michigan, 2001, s. 32.

26: Fiat-Lingotto Factory, Turin, Italy. Aerial view. Photo courtesy of Fiat Engineering, Architecture Department. –in: Albert Kahn: Inspiration for the Modern, Brian Carter (ed.), University of Michigan Museum of Art, University of Michigan, 2001.

27: River Rouge Plant, Dearborn, Michigan. View of the interior showing the vertical production line. –in: Albert Kahn: Inspiration for the Modern, Brian Carter (ed.), University of Michigan Museum of Art, University of Michigan, 2001.

28: Glenn L. Martin Company, Baltimore, Maryland. Exterior view. Photo courtesy of Glenn Martin. –in: Architecture by Albert Kahn Associated Architects and Engineers, Inc., architectural catalogue, 1948.

29: General Motors Corporation, Assembly Plant, Flint, Michigan. Aerial view. Photo courtesy of General Motors photographic section. –in: Architecture by Albert Kahn Associated Architects and Engineers, Inc., architectural catalogue, 1948.

Detroit