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The Path of Kahn: Amerikanismus between Moscow and Detroit

Instructor:  Claire Zimmerman
Location: London, Nottingham / Rotterdam / Frankfurt, Berlin / Moscow, Kharkov, Kiev / Turin, Venice
Dates Abroad: June 26 - August 15, 2014
Course Blog

This travel course follows the trail of influence of Detroit architect Albert Kahn throughout Europe and the former Soviet Union. We will juxtapose buildings on international sites with Kahnʼs Michigan archives (built and drawn). We will visit major sites on which Kahnʼs work can be found as a building (Kharkov, Ukraine, via Moscow), as a precedent (Nottingham, Rotterdam, Frankfurt, Turin), or as a counter- precedent (Amsterdam, Berlin, Dessau). We will study six buildings closely, but also trace the route of interwar "Amerikanismus" to provide context more generally. Comparing extant buildings to their ʻoriginal stateʼ in drawings, photographs, and texts, we will consider the fate of industrial architecture in a post-industrial age.

Returning to Ann Arbor, we turn to the shadow architecture of the archive and to local Kahn buildings permanently altered through retrofit or demolition. To conclude the course, we will visit extant buildings, many of them ruins, in the Detroit area, and relate them to the buildings of Amerikanismus. In so doing, we begin work on an Alternate History of the Twentieth Century, in which American functional building proceeds without mid-century sublation by European emigrés.

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