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Albert Kahn was born in Germany in 1869. His father, a rabbi, brought the family to the United States. As a youth, Albert apprenticed with a Michigan architect, Geroge D. Mason, and won a scholarship to study in Europe. After returning home, he started his own firm in 1895, Nettleton, Kahn and Trowbridge. The firm, now known as Albert Kahn and Associates, celebrated its 100th anniversary last year and is still considered a leader in industrial plant design.
Henry B. Joy hired Kahn to design and build factories for Packard Motor Co. In 1904, after building nine Packard plants, Kahn suggested a new method he had learned in Europe for plant number ten. The building still stands on East Grand Boulevard, its reinforced concrete still sturdy.
Early auto plants were dirty, cramped, dark and inefficient. Kahn's new method took into account what the workers did and where their materials should be, increasing the efficiency of the work flow.
"Nine-tenths of my success has come because I listened to what people said they wanted and gave it to them," Kahn said.
Everyone marveled at the new building. Visitors said it was clean, open, airy, bright, handsome, pleasant, comfortable, efficient, healthful, simple, bold, and well-proportioned. Orders from other automakers began to pour in.