• Albert Kahn, Inc. and the Architecture of Capitalism, 1905–1961
    Claire Zimmerman
    MIT Press, 2024
    Claire Zimmerman

Photographer unknown, Albert Kahn Inc. atop the Marquette Building, Detroit, 1924. Photograph. Courtesy University of Michigan Bentley Historical Library/Albert Kahn Associates, Ann Arbor

Albert Kahn, Inc. focuses on second-wave industrialization and built environments at a large architecture firm based in Detroit. Economically speaking, a majority of the firm’s buildings represent a fixed capital expense; they are not sumptuary products, like many buildings. The book’s principal actors industrialized building processes for construction all over the United States and internationally, as capitalism dictated a new set of design protocols for industry. While these protocols inspired modernists, they generally ran counter to standards of artistic excellence; modern architects absorbed images of industry more than its practices. Albert Kahn, Inc. (AKI), by contrast, worked within a market economy, in which buildings as fixed capital cost exerted downward pressure on wage labor. AKI produced buildings on commission from economic elites, but scores of wage laborers occupied the manufacturing buildings it produced. The resulting dilemma: an architecture firm was economically positioned to exploit the labor of the occupants of its buildings. This dilemma, and these environments, as architecture, as process, and as economic force, are the subjects of Albert Kahn, Inc

Claire Zimmerman is the author of Photographic Architecture in the Twentieth Century (Minnesota, 2014). Her new book turns from mass reproduction in architecture to mass production itself, addressing fundamental alterations to architectural practice at the beginning of the twentieth century. Zimmerman coedited Architecture against Democracy (Minnesota, 2024), Detroit-Moscow-Detroit: An Architecture for Industrialization (MIT Press, 2023), and Neo-Avant-Garde and Postmodern: Postwar Architecture in Britain and Beyond (Yale University Press, 2010). She also coedited Grey Room 71: The Costs of Architecture (2018). Earlier publications focus on photography and the effects of mass media on modern architecture; the latter study the political economy of mass production in architecture through second-wave industrialization as a colonizing project of imperial powers.