Detroit architect Albert Kahn has an outsized presence at the University of Michigan. His firm designed 14 of 19 buildings that comprise the core of central campus. He was also a major architect in Detroit, where the firm designed over 900 buildings. Most impressive of all, however, is the statistic that pertains to his international work. Kahn is credited with the design and construction of over 520 factories built in the Soviet Union between 1929 and 1932. This talk considers the challenges of studying an architectural archive of immense size, and the work of an architect closely associated with twentieth-century industrialization. Kahn’s important role in key events of twentieth-century history is widely acknowledged, but his stature in architecture is contended, despite the outsize importance of his work for the development of Amerikanismus in all its European contexts. As preparatory to an exhibition proposal on Kahn’s work, this talk surveys the ground, and the historical and art historical problems subsumed therein.
Claire Zimmerman is associate professor of history of art and the coordinator of doctoral studies in architecture at the Taubman College of the University of Michigan. She teaches courses on 19th and 20th century European and American architecture with research emphases on architectural media and in Weimar Germany and the United Kingdom. Current research interests include architecture culture as it interacts with commerce and industry, and the infrastructures of globalization that underpinned the spread of modern architecture throughout the 20th c. She is co-curating an exhibition at Tate Britain, opening in Fall 2014, titled New Brutalist Image 1949-1955: Hunstanton School and the Photography of Life and Art with Victoria Walsh, Royal College of Art.
Zimmerman’s book Photographic Architecture in the Twentieth Century (University of Minnesota Press, 2014) joins a co-edited essay collection, Neo-avant-garde and Postmodern: Postwar Architecture in Britain and Beyond (with Mark Crinson) that appeared as Volume 21 in the Yale Studies in British Art (Yale University Press) in fall 2010. An earlier monograph, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe was published by Taschen in 2006. Zimmerman's recent work has appeared in essays in Culture in the Anteroom: The Legacies of Siegfried Kracauer, edited by G. Gemünden and J. von Moltke (University of Michigan Press, 2012), in British Art in the Cultural Field, 1939-69 (Chichester: Wiley-Blackwell, 2012), in Postmodernism: Style and Subversion, 1970-1990 (Victoria and Albert Museum, 2011); and in journals such as Candide, Art History, OASE, AA Files, Perspecta, the Journal of Architecture, and Harvard Design Magazine. She was the 2009-2010 Helmut F. Stern Professor at the University of Michigan Institute for the Humanities. Before coming to Michigan, Zimmerman taught at Yale University, Syracuse University, Parsons School of Design, Barnard College, and Florida A&M University. She worked on the exhibition Mies in Berlin at the Museum of Modern Art from 1999-2001.