Detroit-headquartered Albert Kahn Associates is celebrating 125 years in operation with the launch of a new interactive map that invites users to peruse–and in some cases, create customized tours of—the firm’s multitude of iconic hometown buildings including sprawling factory complexes, landmark Art Deco skyscrapers, and ornate mansions erected during the Motor City’s early 20th-century auto-making heyday. Founded in 1895 as one of the world’s first integrated architecture and engineering firms by German-born Albert Kahn, the firm has overseen a staggering 45,000 projects to date in its illustrious history. That said, the interactive map also includes numerous past and current projects by the firm outside of Michigan ranging from São Paulo, Brazil, to Louisville, Kentucky, to Birmingham, Alabama, and many points in between. Said points are largely, but not exclusively, concentrated in the Midwestern United States.
Of the over 300 Kahn Associates-designed “legacy” buildings included on the map, 100 of them are labeled as special “125 Year Anniversary Hand-Selected Projects” while others are denoted as being part of specialized walking tours including Detroit (22 sites), Ann Arbor (16 sites), and Walkerville (12 sites), a former whisky- and car-producing town that’s now part of Windsor, Ontario. Also highlighted is Kahn’s National Register of Historic Places-listed Mack Avenue home in Midtown Detroit. In total, over 60 Kahn buildings are listed on the NRHP and 15 are recognized with Michigan Historical Markers including the Detroit Free Press Building, the Eastern Liggett School (now the Detroit Waldorf School), the Dearborn Inn, and the famed Packard Automotive Plant. Also listed on the map are several significant Kahn buildings that have been demolished over the years such as the Burroughs Adding Machine Company manufacturing plant and the old Children’s Hospital of Michigan (designed by Nettleton, Kahn & Trowbridge) both in Detroit.
Several in-progress projects headed by Kahn are also featured including the expansion of Erie Insurance’s headquarters in downtown Erie, Pennsylvania, a city of particular focus for the firm where it is also leading lakefront redevelopment efforts. Outside of the Rust Belt, Kahn Associates also recently set its sights on Mars. Back on Earth and in Detroit, ongoing projects include transformative renovations of the Detroit Opera House and Detroit Creamery Building (the latter being an original Albert Kahn design) as well as continued work on the Detroit Riverfront.
Dubbed “the architect of Detroit,” the wildly prolific Albert Kahn, who passed away in 1942 at the age of 73, was the go-to architect for numerous American industrialists and oversaw the revolutionary design of factories for Chrysler, Ford, Packard, and General Motors as well as other automakers and titans of industry. At the same time, his eponymous firm took on numerous notable civic, cultural, and educational projects including at the University of Michigan along with skyline-shaping office towers, lavish private estates, and multi-family housing complexes, all of them designed in a number of eclectic styles. An integral player in the evolution and success of the firm was Kahn’s brother Julius, an engineer who worked miracles with reinforced concrete.
Lots more about the past and present of this venerable American firm, including the interactive project website, can be found over at the Kahn Associates website. The firm also plans to host a number of upcoming tours and other goings-on to commemorate this most impressive milestone.