Topics in Modern and Contemporary Architecture: Albert Kahn: Architect of the American Century
270 Tappan Hall
W 10:00-1:00pm
3 Credit Seminar
Meets with ARCH 603.004

Industrial architecture places performance at the center of architectural inquiry. The mechanical function of building-in this case literally a piece of machinery-forestalls judgments of its aesthetic or civic value. Despite this fact, industrial architecture lay at the heart of architectural modernism, conjured largely as formal image by the great auteurs of twentieth-century building. In this class, we subject the image to comparative analysis through the rich assets of a major architectural archive. At the same time, we confront the muteness of the archive with the history that industrial buildings engendered in the United States and abroad-a history of symbol, dream, and fantasy. This course surveys the work of the industrial architect Albert Kahn (1869-1942) in a seminar organized jointly with the Bentley Library. We will work closely with the drawings and archival records of Kahn's firm, Albert Kahn Associates, from the firm's foundation until the architect's death in 1942, in the midst of World War II. Beginning with a survey of work of the first three decades of the twentieth century, the class will then form targeted research cells around student interests and projects. In addition to reading about Kahn, we will sketch a contextual history of industrial architecture. We will also read theoretical texts about machines and the material properties of factory buildings (both in terms of buildings and their products). Kahn was an early pioneer of reinforced concrete construction and factory architecture, making significant contributions to technical and aesthetic developments in both areas in the first years of the twentieth century. His work encompassed many other building types-highrise buildings, religious structures, homes, clubs, and university and civic buildings. But his name is forever associated with Henry Ford and the architecture of American automation, thanks to his work at Highland Park and River Rouge. In addition, Kahn provided the drawings and services for over 500 factories in the Soviet Union between 1929 and 1932, the year in which Joseph Stalin ejected his staff and ended his contract. This course is an exploratory research seminar for an Albert Kahn exhibition slated for 2015. Students will do primary research with archival materials, and may be encouraged to tackle projects that could extend beyond the bounds of a semester-long class for possible inclusion in the exhibition. The class will include visitors and at least one field trip to local buildings; funding for a trip to the Soviet Union will be sought from university funding sources. Requirements: class attendance, presentation of readings and research projects, and final paper (15-20 pages) or project. The latter may tackle problems of representation, presentation, and analysis through a well-researched but non-textual product such as a digital model or animation. Estimated cost of materials: $50 or more, but less than $100. D. 4.