Monday, June 20, 2011

Albert Kahn: Versatile Architect

Perhaps I wrote too soon. I've always liked the work of architect Raymond Hood and made a modest case for him here, stating "I base my contention on Hood's ability to do outstanding work in several styles: traditional, Deco and modernist."

So what did I do a few weeks later than pick up a book I bought in Detroit a few years ago and thumb through it. What I saw was strong evidence that there was another guy who could (or maybe guys in his firm under his direction could) do what Hood was doing at a similar level of competence for a lot more structures. He was Albert Kahn (1869-1942). His Wikipedia entry that includes a list of his buildings is here.

One difference between the two architects is that modernists generally embraced Kahn more than Hood thanks to the industrial buildings he did during Detroit's boom days. They featured simplified shapes and little or no decoration, catnip to functionalist theorists circa 1925. His traditionally styled works ... well, they were conveniently set aside.

For what it's worth, Henry Ford had his anti-semitic moments, yet hired this rabbi's son to design his most important factories.

Here are some of Kahn's buildings.


Dodge Brothers plant, Hamtramck - 1910

Angell Hall, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor - 1922

General Motors (Durant) Building, Detroit - 1922

Fisher Building - 1927

Albert Kahn House, Detroit - 1907

E. Chandler Walker House, Windsor, Ontario - 1905

Cranbrook (George Booth) House, Bloomfield Hills - 1907

Edsel Ford House, Grosse Pointe Shores - 1926

The Edsel Ford House, conceptually a cluster of Cotswold cottages, is open to the public and well worth the effort to get there. (It's in one of Detroit's poshest suburbs, so rent a car and enjoy checking the neighbor's digs en route.) Most of the rooms are decorated in late 1920s style. Exceptions are bedrooms used by Edsel's sons which were redecorated in a Moderne mode around 1940.


dearieme said...

I much prefer his houses to his institutional buildings. It's just possible that that judgement bears a little national bias, mind.

Donald Pittenger said...

I like the houses too.

Ford and Booth were motor industry biggies and Walker was big in Canadian whiskey. So, being bigshots, why not follow the country house template of Mother Country bigshots?

I'll be posting a variation on this soon.

Unknown said...

I love his industrial buildings!!!