Albert Kahn was born in Germany in 1869. Kahn began his career as an office boy in the architectural firm of Mason and Rice, but was soon promoted. In 1902, Kahn helped to design the Palms Apartment Building in Detroit. The structure had six floors of reinforced concrete with a limestone facade. Kahn quickly started his own firm, and attracted some important clients. His firm designed and built manufacturing plants for the automotive industry, with his most ambitious project, the Highland Park Plant of Ford Motor Company, completed in 1909. Kahn's reputation as a designer of a new industrial architecture spread internationally, and other manufacturers sought his services. The list grew to include makers of textiles, clothing, cement, business machines, food, and chemicals. Buildings for colleges, hospitals, churches, schools, banks, theaters, and offices also were among the firm's commissions. By 1938, Kahn's work reached a total of 19% of all architect-designed industrial buildings in the United States.
A NEW 20TH-CENTURY INDUSTRIAL ARCHITECTURE
Before Albert Kahn, factories had dark interiors; small, sooty windows; masonry walls; and clumsy supports spaced close together. Kahn was responsible for a new thrust in the design of manufacturing facilities. Kahn's plants were well laid out, efficient, airy, and admitted more daylight than ever before. With the advent of reinforced concrete, the building could be framed with vertical and horizontal members spaced to allow for large expanses of glass between. The size of the bays and increased spans provided more space and flexibility for future expansion. Kahn today is remembered for his many contributions to the development of reinforced concrete for industrial architecture.