Basic Biographical Details

Name: Albert Kahn
Designation: Architect
Born: 21 March 1869
Died: 8 December 1942
Bio Notes: Albert Kahn was born in Rhuanen, Germany on 21 March 1869, the eldest son of Rabbi Joseph Kahn and his wife Rosalie. He was educated at Echternach. His family emigrated first to Luxembourg and secondly to Detroit in 1881. There he was apprenticed to Mason & Rice at the age of fifteen in 1884. A scholarship from the American Architect and Building News enabled him to undertake a European tour from which he returned to the same firm as chief draughtsman. In 1895 he declined an offer from Louis Sullivan and established his own practice with George W Nettleton and Alexander B Trowbridge, both from Mason & Rice's office. The partnership of Nettleton, Kahn & Trowbridge proved brief as Nettleton died in 1900 and Trowbridge left to teach architecture at Cornell University. During that period Kahn financed the education of his brother Julius (born 1874) at the University of Michigan, where he graduated in engineering in 1896, thereafter seeking experience in Japan.

After the dissolution of Nettleton, Kahn & Trowbridge, Kahn was briefly in partnership with his former employer George D Mason until 1902, and then with Ernest Wilby as Albert Kahn, Ernest Wilby a partnership which lasted until 1918 when the practice became Albert Kahn Incorporated Architects and Engineers. It was however Julius who revolutionised the practice. He joined it and took out a patent for the Kahn System of Reinforced Concrete which was managed by him as The Trussed Concrete Steel Company of Detroit, subsequently abridged to The Truscon Steel Company, and relocated at Youngstown, Ohio in 1914 to be nearer the mining of the raw material. The system was first used at the Engineering Building of the University of Michigan in 1903, quickly followed by the Packard Motor Car Company Building at Detroit which established the practice's reputation for industrial and particularly automotive buildings not just in the USA but in the UK where the third Kahn brother, Moritz, took care of the business side of the practice from an office in London between 1905 and 1917 and as far afield as Japan and Russia where Kahn maintained a large branch office in the years 1929-32. For smaller overseas commissions Kahn's practice typically supplied a set of drawings for a fee, as was the case with their Scottish buildings.

The practice did not consist exclusively of concrete frame industrial structures: Kahn was an extremely accomplished classicist designing new classical and Renaissance public and commercial buildings of a quality which challenged comparison with the work of McKim Mead & White: and he could turn his hand to American colonial and English Tudor as the occasion required. In the 1930s his public and commercial architecture became more modern or art deco of the stepped back type.

Kahn died at Detroit on 8 December 1942, having designed more than 2,000 factory buildings; his most important clients were Packard, Ford, General Motors, the Chrysler Corporation, the Glen L Martin Aircraft Co., W K Kellogg, the Detroit News and the New York Times. The practice was continued by his son Louis, born 1885: after his death in 1945 the practice continued under the same name with non-family members.

Private and Business Addresses

The following private or business addresses are associated with this architect:
 AddressTypeDate fromDate toNotes
Item 1 of 2Detroit, Michigan, United States of AmericaBusiness18951942 
Item 2 of 2Moscow, RussiaBusiness19291932 

Employment and Training


The following individuals or organisations employed or trained this architect (click on an item to view details):
 NameDate fromDate toPositionNotes
Item 1 of 5Nettleton Kahn & Trowbridge  Partner 
Item 2 of 5Mason & Kahn 1902Partner 
Item 3 of 5Mason & Rice1884 Apprentice 
Item 4 of 5Albert Kahn Ernest Wilby19021918Partner 
Item 5 of 5Albert Kahn Incorporated Architects and Engineers1918 Partner 

Buildings and Designs

This architect was involved with the following buildings or structures from the date specified (click on an item to view details):
 Date startedBuilding nameTown, district or villageIslandCity or countyCountryNotes
Item 1 of 41912Holm Foundry Administration Building and Amenity BuildingCathcart GlasgowScotlandWest range of offices - design purchased from Albert Kahn's Trussed Concrete Steel Co
Item 2 of 41913Arrol Johnston Motor Company FactoryDumfries DumfriesshireScotlandProvided design
Item 3 of 41915Frys Building  GlasgowScotlandReconstruction
Item 4 of 4Before 1917Albion Motor Car Company FactoryScotstoun GlasgowScotland 


Bibliographic References

The following books contain references to this architect:
Item 1 of 5Bucci, Federigo1991Albert Kahn, architect of Ford Princeton Architectural Press. Published 1991 (Itlaian) and 1993 (English) 
Item 2 of 5Grove Dictionary of Art Grove Dictionary of Art   
Item 3 of 5Hildebrand, Brandt1974Designing for Industry: Architecture of Albert Kahn   
Item 4 of 5Kahn, Albert1921Albert Kahn, architect, Detroit, Michigan Architectural Catalog Co 
Item 5 of 5Kahn, Moritz1917The Design and Construction of Industrial Buildings London: Technical Journals