Experiencing Great Architecture and Creative Built Environments

Albert Kahn Associates

Burton Memorial Tower (1936)

Albert Kahn, Architect

The University of Michigan Campus

230 South Ingalls Street  Ann Arbor, MI

Aerial View and Map

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Photos taken November 4 and 5, 2011

The Art Deco and Art Moderne inspired tower is a counterpoint to the massive Hill Auditorium next door. Growing up in Ann Arbor, the Burton Tower was always there with its simple clock face visible above the State Theater looking down Liberty Street. From some angles the copper roof is visible and forms a proper cap on the tower. From closer up the sloped roof is not visible and the limestone facade with its simple Art Deco detailing and vertical trim forms the sillouette against the sky. The proportions and detailing just seem perfect…with the exception of the windows on the office floors. For some reason the punched double-hung windows just seem to be out of place and scale to me – more appropriate to a colonial house than an Art Deco tower. That being said, this is still one of my favorite structures on the UofM Campus.

Burton Memorial Tower houses the Charles Baird Carillon, which is a “Grand Carillon” . Some quick internet research reveals that a grand carillon includes a bourdon bell which weighs at least six tons, and can sound a low ‘G’ – who knew? In the summer you can enjoy the carillon concerts while lounging on the lawn below.

Some historical photos showing the construction

Bentley Historical Library Information Page on Tower


Hill Auditorium (1913)

Albert Kahn, Architect

University of Michigan

825 North University Avenue, Ann Arbor, MI 48109

Aerial View and Map

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Photos taken November 4, 2011

The Hill Auditorium is a 3,500 seat venue designed by Albert Kahn  (originally it seated 4,100, but a 2004 renovation eliminated some seating). The most striking design elements are the grand light limestone columns and frame that contains the entry doors and windows above. Especially at night when you are entering the building for a performance, the light colored columns are prominent, and you do not notice the dark brickwork of the rest of the facade. This brickwork is actually quite elaborate and includes some beautiful decorative tiles (possibly Pewabic Tile, but I have not confirmed that). I have not attended any performances inside the auditorium since the renovation in 2004, but I understand that it was beautifully done…but where did all those seats go?


Temple Beth El (1922)

Albert Kahn, Architect

8801 North Woodward Avenue, Detroit MI

Aerial View

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From my Achive

This monumental neoclassical temple was the second building Kahn designed for his own Reformed Jewish Congregation. Kahn, also known for his industrial architecture ( see the Ohio Steel Foundry), here he shows his mastery of classical architectural forms.


Belle Isle Conservatory, Detroit (1904)

Albert Kahn, Architect

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Ohio Steel Foundry Roll and Heavy Machine Shop (1938)

Albert Kahn and Associates, Architect

1600 McClain Road, Lima, OH

Aerial View Map
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With the decades long accumlation of dirt on the windows, and the later addition of the “solid” walled building to the west, the original transparent glass box effect is hard to envision. It must have been amazing in 1938 to  see this transparent glass enclosure, with the angled skylights on either side of the overhead crane making even the roof structure appear light and airy. Through this delicate glass curtain, the overhead crane moving back and forth and the other industrial machinery and processes in full production were exposed and on display.