Albert Kahn Associates, Inc Year-In-Review03-20-24 | Feature

Albert Kahn Associates, Inc Year-In-Review

LASN 2023 Yearbook
by Stephen White, Director of Landscape Architecture & Urban Design

Albert Kahn Associates, Inc - Detroit, MI
by Stephen White, Director of Landscape Architecture & Urban Design

Albert Kahn Associates has a multidisciplinary team of landscape architects, architects, designers, and engineers, who help our clients design campuses to enhance their operations. Our teams are particularly passionate about helping our legacy clients achieve their goals, such as the Edsel and Eleanor Ford House (Ford House) and the large restoration project that opened this year. This project has won numerous awards including the Cultural Landscape Award from the Michigan Historic Preservation Network.
Ford House's grounds needed to reflect the sense of place created by Jens Jensen and Albert Kahn and tell its story of innovation. Located within the grounds of a National Historic Landmark in Grosse Pointe Shores, the pool, lagoon, and landscape no longer reflected the sense of place envisioned in 1928. This site is one of the only known collaborations between Jensen and Kahn, each a pioneer in their respective fields.
The Kahn team repaired and restored the 185,000-gallon pool with its infinity edge, waterfall, and lagoon, mechanical infrastructure, surrounding stone hardscape, natural canopy, ornamental understory, birch grove, shrub massings, perennials, submergent, and emergent plantings. The restored environment incorporates universal accessibility and sensory opportunities to increase visitor access, while remaining a significant habitat for wildlife and migratory birds. Visitors can now experience the majestic environment as it was originally envisioned, complete with scenic views of Lake St Clair.
The landscape had lost its diversity, hierarchy, and natural vision laid out by Jensen. Invasive species and unintentionally planted trees had established themselves over time. Jensen's plan featured species that are now protected or sensitive plants unable to be transplanted. The team salvaged what they could for other areas of the site and consulted with scholars for substitutions that maintained the design intent.
Using original drawings, family videos, and photographs, landscape architects continuously modified the design to accommodate a newly found photograph, specimen species, or unique natural massing carved into the landscape. Even in the final days of planting installation, the location and quantity of materials changed depending on newfound evidence.
Natural sandstone for the pool patio was quarried from the same location as the original installation and custom cut to match the paving pattern, which was developed from the original photographs. This high level of attention to historical character while using innovative, contemporary materials and construction methods will ensure that the restored character of this project will last for decades.
This is the largest restoration project undertaken by Ford House. It was an important project representing the Ford family's ongoing legacy of design and engineering innovation. The size of the organically-shaped swimming pool, the infinity edge, the water feature, the gutter collection system, and the mechanical filtration system were unprecedented at the time.
The restored area is a source of education and respite for visitors to the estate. Interactive wayfinding QR codes throughout the landscape reference the historical photographs. There are also many seating options that accommodate all ranges of mobility, making the grounds of the Ford House a perfect location for public gatherings.