Amerikanische Bekleidung. Semper's technique in the work of Albert Kahn




Albert Kahn, Industrial Architecture, Gottfried Semper, Karl Bötticher, Chicago Commercial Style


This paper proposes a reinterpretation of Albert Kahn's work through the architectural theories of Semper in order to answer certain questions that have persisted about his work, such as, what is the reason for the heterogeneity of his industrial and non-industrial work and what is the relationship between his radical technical innovations and contemporary tradition. Both questions can be answered by an analysis of Kahn’s work through design tools inherited from Gottfried Semper: Bekleidung, the coating principle, and Stoffwechsel. We establish a parallel study of Kahn's work and the work of other architects in which it is documented the strong influences of these theories. We focus in our analysis on Kahn's industrial architecture, since it is not conceivable that Semper’s influence, so evident in its office, commercial and public buildings, would not have any permeability in his industrial work. To demonstrate this influence, we examine buildings that bridge the gap between the industrial and non-industrial design such as the complex for the U.S Aviation School in Langley Field, Virginia and the Natural Science Building in Ann Arbor, Michigan, among others.


Download data is not yet available.

Author Biographies

Luis Pancorbo Crespo, University of Virginia

Assistant Professor, School of Architecture

Inés Martín-Robles, University of Virginia

Assistant Professor. Department of Architecture. School of Architecture


Bötticher, Karl. “The Principles of the Hellenic and Germanic Ways of Building.” In In What Style Should We Build? The German Debate on Architectural Style. Introduced and translated by Wolfgang Herrmann. New York: The Getty Centre for the History of Art and Humanities, 1992.

Ferry, W. Hawkins. The legacy of Albert Kahn. Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 1970.

Frampton, Kenneth. Studies in Tectonic Culture. Cambridge, Massachusetts: MIT Press, 1995.

Ford, Edward R. The Architectural Detail. New York: Princeton Architectural Press, 2011.

Hildebrand, Grant. Designing for Industry: The Architecture of Albert Kahn. Cambridge, Massachusetts: MIT Press, 1974.

Hübsch, Heinrich, et al. In What Style Should We Build? The German Debate on Architectural Style. Introduced and translated by Wolfgang Herrmann. New York: The Getty Centre for the History of Art and Humanities, 1992.

Jordy, William H. American Buildings and Their Architects. Vol. 4, Progressive and Academic Ideals at the Turn of the Twentieth Century. New York: Oxford University Press, 1972.

Kahn, Albert. Albert Kahn: Architect Abroad. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan. Museum of Art, 1972.

Mallgrave, Harry. F. Introduction to The Four Elements of Architecture and Other Writings, by Gottfried Semper. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2001.

Pancorbo, Luis, and Inés Martín-Robles. “El espacio como membrana. Albert Kahn y Mies van der Rohe.” Ra. Revista de Arquitectura 16 (November 2014): 49-58.

Rueda Jiménez, Óscar. Bekleidung. Los trajes de la arquitectura. Barcelona: Fundación Arquia, 2014.

Semper, Gottfried. Escritos fundamentales de Gottfried Semper. El fuego y su protección. Edited by Antonio Armesto. Barcelona: Fundación Arquia, 2014.

Webster, Julie L., Michael A. Pedrotty, and Aaron R. Chmiel. Historical and Architectural Overview of Military Aircraft Hangars. A General History, Thematic Typology, and Inventory of Aircraft Hangars Constructed on Department of Defense Installations. Champaign, Illinois: United States Army Construction Engineering Research Laboratory, 2001.






Research articles
Received 2019-04-05
Accepted 2020-09-16
Published 2020-10-30