Albert Kahn, the man who designed Detroit’s powerhouse industrial buildings, is the focus of several events and exhibitions at Lawrence Technological University this winter.
In the first half of the 20th Century, Kahn (1869-1942) revolutionized the design of industrial buildings around the world, and his prolific architectural office also saw the production of many commercial, institutional, and residential structures of lasting significance. As the centennial of numerous Kahn landmarks draws near, there is renewed and well-deserved interest in Kahn’s work.
The Albert Kahn Research Coalition is collaborating with the LTU Library and the LTU College of Architecture and Design’s Lectures and Exhibitions Committee to present exciting public programming to highlight this innovative period in architectural history. Other partners in this coalition are the University of Michigan, the Belle Isle Conservancy, the Detroit Institute of Arts, the Detroit Historical Society, and the Detroit-based design firm that bears the founder’s name, Albert Kahn Associates. The purpose of the coalition is to preserve Albert Kahn’s legacy and educate the community on the importance of his work.
The exhibitions open at Lawrence Tech on Friday, Feb. 3 with “Albert Kahn under Construction,” on display in the UTLC Gallery, 21000 W. Ten Mile Road, Southfield. This digital exhibition focuses on the remarkable archive of construction photographs assembled by Kahn’s firm as they built the powerhouses of American industry, from Highland Park to Willow Run. The gallery is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on weekdays and admission is free. This exhibit is curated by Claire Zimmerman, University of Michigan associate professor of architecture and history of art, and the LTU College of Architecture and Design Exhibitions and Lectures Committee, chaired by Dierdre Hennebury, assistant professor of architecture and design.
On Thursday, Feb. 23, at 7 p.m., Joel Stone, Senior Curator at the Detroit Historical Society will speak on “The Ubiquitous Mr. Kahn: Albert Kahn’s Architectural Legacy” in the A200 Auditorium of Lawrence Tech’s Architecture Building. This presentation will examine Kahn’s career and the vast legacy of architectural treasures he created for the people of southeast Michigan. A gallery viewing and reception will follow. The lecture and reception are free and open to the public.
A partner exhibition will run from Friday, Feb. 17 through March 10 at LTU’s Detroit Center for Design + Technology, 4219 Woodward Ave., Detroit. In this midtown show, LTU’s College of Architecture and Design is partnering with the Belle Isle Conservancy for an exhibit titled “Albert Kahn at the Crossroads: The ‘Lost’ Belle Isle Aquarium and Horticultural Building Blueprints.” This compelling exhibit features several rediscovered blueprints from a private collection. Opened in 1904, the Belle Isle Aquarium is the oldest public aquarium in North America and the oldest aquarium-conservatory combination in the world. Independent architectural history scholar, Chris Meister and the Belle Isle Conservancy Historic Preservation Committee will provide a gallery talk Friday, Feb. 17 at 7:30 p.m. at the Detroit Center for Design + Technology. The talk will be part of a ticketed evening event called “Deeper Dive: Albert Kahn” hosted by the Belle Isle Conservancy and will discuss the development of the public aquarium and botanical conservatory as building types. Ticket information is available at www.belleisleconservancy.org/deeperdive.
The culminating program of the Albert Kahn series is the Albert Kahn Research Symposium from 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. on Friday, March 3 at Lawrence Tech. During the morning, Zimmerman will moderate a series of presentations on current research about Kahn. After a luncheon, another panel examines “Restoration and Adaptive Reuse of Kahn Buildings,” moderated by Dawn Bilobran, who has roles with three organizations – the Belle Isle Conservancy, the Michigan Historic Preservation Network and Preservation Detroit. Panelists include Chris Meister; Alan Cobb, CEO of Albert Kahn Associates; and Donald Bauman, Director of Architectural Development and Historical Preservation at Albert Kahn Associates. The symposium will also include exhibit viewing, and an open house in LTU’s Albert Kahn Collection, which consists of Kahn’s personal library, originally part of Kahn’s New Center office. Its components were disassembled, moved, and reassembled inside rooms of the LTU Library in 1982. Visit www.ltu.edu/albertkahn or call (248) 204-3000 for information and registration.