Kahn Family.

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As America's most influential industrial architect, Albert Kahn revolutionized the health and safety conditions of early twentieth-century factories and worked closely with Henry Ford to implement his vision of the assembly line at the Highland Park and River Rouge automobile plants. Kahn pioneered the use of reinforced concrete, non-intrusive steel structures, natural ventilation and glass building skins to respond to the changing functional needs of the American factory. His pragmatism, ability to listen to the needs of the client and experimentation with innovative building technologies resulted in a new industrial architecture, which inspired the development of European Modernism by Walter Gropius, Mies van der Rohe and Le Corbusier. Hugely versatile in his design capabilities and strongly interested in historic architecture, Kahn also produced many commercial and institutional icons in Detroit and at the University of Michigan, including the Fisher Building, Detroit Athletic Club, General Motors Building, Hill Auditorium, Angell Hall, William L. Clements Library and Burton Memorial Carillon Tower. This most prolific of American architects built over 2000 projects in his lifetime, including 521 factories in Russia between 1929 and 1932, and in 1938 was constructing 19% of all architect-designed industrial facilities in the United States. When he died in 1942, he had signed defense contracts totaling $200 million for the construction of the Willow Run Bomber Plant and naval bases in Honolulu, Midway Island, Puerto Rico and Kodak, Alaska, among other war-time facilities.

In 1896, Kahn married Ernestine Krolik, the daughter of Adolph Krolik, who was a successful dry goods merchant and a client of the young architect. A graduate of the University of Michigan in 1892, Ernestine was a talented gardener and interior designer, who often advised Albert on matters of color and fabric selection. When speaking of her parents, their daughter Rosalie Kahn Butzel said years later that "they complemented each other wonderfully."[1] Albert and Ernestine had two other daughters, Lydia and Ruth, and one son, Edgar (1900-1985). "Eddie" became the first scorer and captain of the University of Michigan hockey team, graduating from the Univerity Medical School in 1924. From 1949 to 1971, he served as the Chairman of Neurosurgery at the University of Michigan Hospital (designed by his father in 1919).

For a full history of Albert Kahn's career, please see the finding aid for the Albert Kahn Papers.



[1] Richard Bak, "Blueprint for Detroit," HOUR Detroit (May, 2000, reprinted by Albert Kahn Associates, Inc.), p. 2

From the guide to the Albert Kahn Family papers, 1869-1989, (Bentley Historical Library, University of Michigan)

Archival Resources
Role Title Holding Repository
creatorOf Albert Kahn Family papers, 1869-1989 Bentley Historical Library
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