Archive for September, 2009

2.3. Over here, the “Model” Factory and influence from the USA.

The development of the multi-storey mill starting in the 18th century was on the whole a British affair which was adapted throughout the world. However, in the early part of the 20th century, across the Atlantic new production methods were being developed, based on the ideas of Frederick Taylor in his publication “Principles of scientific management” (ref.1) and spearheaded by Henry Ford (ref.2)and the needs of the automotive industry.

This tied in with the availability of a newly developed reinforced concrete system developed by the Kahn brothers in Detroit. The “Kahn system” (ref.3) as it was patented, was marketed by the newly formed “Kahncrete” company and its subsidiary “Trussed Concrete Steel Company”, or “Truscon” as it was often known. The company’s aim was to sell the system under licence in the USA and Britain where Moritz Kahn sought new markets and established an office in London (1907).

Albert Khan (ref.4)completed a factory for the Packard Motor Company (ref.5),Detroit (ref.6)(1903), (figure 2.7) the first American reinforced concrete building and the first to have steel windows imported from England.

fig 2.7 Packard factory

fig 2.7 Packard factory

These elements produced a lighter building than ever before. In 1906 with the Pierce Automobile plant in Buffalo (ref.7), New York, (figure 2.8) he designed a factory in which self-contained work cycles were housed within a single storey, steel framed, top lit by “saw tooth” (ref.8) roof glazed buildings designed for uniform lighting and physical flexibility to aid production within.

fig 2.8 Pierce Auto factory

fig 2.8 Pierce Auto factory

Khan was then commissioned by Henry Ford to build a new four-storey plant in Highland Park Detroit (1910) (Figure 2.9) and three years later built the factory to house the world’s first moving assembly line. This was for the “Ford model T.” (ref.9) Ford demanded a building with the focus on open space, adaptability, uncluttered areas suitable for production flow lines where the planned integrated processes, from the arrival of raw materials to the finished product, could all take place on one level.

fig 2.9. Ford Highland Park Auto factory

fig 2.9. Ford Highland Park Auto factory

His next commission was the Ford Rouge plant (ref.10) (1916), (figure 2.10), a mammoth plant, its assembly line ran through a series of single storey units. Here Khan introduced the use of steel rather than reinforced concrete for its structural framework. Kahn was to develop this design in numerous subsequent factories, all single storey, all lit from above to enable the floor to be kept clear for machinery and processes. Services such as lavatories and offices were placed at a higher, often mezzanine level.

fig 2.10 Ford Rouge Auto plant

fig 2.10 Ford Rouge Auto plant

These buildings became known as “Model factories” and their design as the “Kahn Daylight system” being based on a regular grid of column, beam and slab. Concrete sections were fully exposed and external wall spaces were glass filled with slender glazing bars. Truscon opened their first example of this type of building in the U.K at Trafford Park, Manchester (1911) for the Ford motor company (figure 2.11).

fig 2.11. Manchester industry park

fig 2.11. Manchester industry park

Soon after on a green field site in Dumfries, a three story E shaped factory was built for the Arrol–Johnson Motor Company(ref.11) (1912-13), (figure 2.12). A four story building for the engineers G.J Weir ltd, Glasgow (1912-13) and another for the Albion Motor company in Glasgow (1913-15) (ref.12)(figure 2.13) were also completed. The aforementioned Uniroyal factory in Dumfries may be another unconfirmed early example.

fig 2.12.  Arrol Johnson auto plant

fig 2.12. Arrol Johnson auto plant

fig 2.13. Albion motors

fig 2.13. Albion motors

The increasing availability of this new fast economic and adaptable reinforced concrete coincided with the shortage of materials created by the military build up for the First World War(ref.13) in Europe, and the relaxing of building regulations. Its versatility also made it more attractive. Truscon took advantage of this, designing innumerable civil factories before turning to establishments required for armaments and defence hardware. One example being the Birmingham Small Arms factory(ref.14) (B.S.A) (1914), in Small Heath , West Midlands, (Figure 2.14), whose design appeared as a chequer board of concrete piers and rectangular windows.

fig 2.14. B.S.A works Birmingham

fig 2.14. B.S.A works Birmingham

(ref.1)Frederick Taylor published “The Principles of Scientific Management “1911, where he recommended the use of scientific method to systematise and standardise industry. Taylor demonstrated, for example, that if a man carried out orders to the minutest detail and showed no initiative he could load over 47 tons of pig iron a day onto a railway truck. He then used this as a standard to judge other workers who, he found, were typically loading only about 12 tons. Taylor reasoned that the hard working employee should be better paid and was happier to work under these conditions. There were then attempts to take these models of industrial efficiency into schools. Under the guidance of the US Office of Education a number of schools were surveyed their own work and ‘objective tests’ were developed to determine the quality of teaching.

(ref.2)Henry Ford, the son of farmer, was born in Greenfield, Michigan on 30th July, 1863. He left school at 15 to work on his father’s farm but in 1879 he moved to Detroit, Michigan where he became an apprentice in a machine shop. To help him survive on his low wages he spent his evenings repairing clocks and watches.  Ford returned to Greenfield after his father gave him 40 acres to start his own farm. He disliked farming and spent much of the time trying to build a steam road carriage and a farm locomotive. Unable to settle at Greenfield, Ford returned to Detroit to work as an engineer for the Edison Illuminating Company. During this period Ford read an article in the World of Science how the German engineer Nicolas Otto, had built a internal combustion engine. Ford now spent his spare time trying to build a petrol-driven motor car. His first car, finished in 1896, was built in a little brick shed in his garden. Driven by a two-cylinder, four-cycle motor, it was mounted on bicycle wheels. Named the Thin Lizzie, the car had no reverse gear or brakes.The Henry Ford: The Life of Henry Ford

(ref.3) Kahn system Kahn first developed the concrete framing system when he worked with Henry Ford to design the first automobile assembly line in a long, low building in 1909 in Highland Park, Michigan. Kahn went on to design many more factories and of his 2,000 works, some 500 were factories built in the Soviet Union in the 1920s.University of Michigan – Michigan Today

 (ref.4)Albert Kahn.  Born. Rhaunen, Germany 1869; d. New York, N.Y. 1942) Albert Kahn was born in Rhaunen, Germany in 1869. In 1884, four years after emigrating to the U.S. Kahn joined the architectural firm of Mason & Rise. Eventually, he became the firm’s principal architect and chief designer. In 1891, during his tenure with Mason & Rise, he visited Europe on a scholarship award. In 1896, Kahn established a partnership with George Nettleton and Alexander Trowbridge, which dissolved in 1900. In 1902, Kahn established his own practice. Although his early work was unassuming, Kahn achieved a breakthrough in 1906 with his single storey, top-lit modular design for the George N. Pierce Plant in Buffalo, New York. Designed to uniform lighting and physical flexibility, it rapidly became the prototype for American factory design, particularly in the emerging motor industry. Unlike many of his contemporaries, Kahn was not inclined to “romanticize the machine”. Extensions of user needs, his designs provided efficient and practical solutions to a growing industrial environment. By the late 1930s Kahn employed over 600 people and was responsible for nearly a fifth of the industrial buildings within the U.SAlbert Kahn – Great Buildings Online

 (ref.5)Packard. “The first large scale modern auto plant, the first nine building erected on the site were made in the old style with wood timbers. However building #10 (1905), was made of reinforced steel and concrete (The Kahn System), and was the first factory built that way. The system of reinforced concrete revolutionized factory design and Albert Kahn went on to build many other factories with the design perfected on Packard

 (ref.6) “Detroit‘s glory years were 1910 to 1930. In 1929, 5.3 million automobiles were produced, and half the city’s labour force worked in the industry. Spurred by a tremendous immigration movement, the population had swelled from under 300,000 in 1900 to more than 1.5 million in 1929. At that time, Detroit became the foremost industrial centre in the United States” Architecture Week – Culture – The Factory Architecture of Albert Kahn – 2000.1101

(ref.7)1906 George N. Pierce Plant, Buffalo, NY, Architect: Albert Kahn. This automobile factory, home of the famous Pierce Arrow car, was the first industrial “modular” building. It was designed so that any number of extensions could be added onto it. Skylights in the roof provided the most efficient form of natural light for workers on the new assembly line.

(ref.8) Saw tooth Roof. A saw tooth roof is an old design often seen in industrial buildings. Typically one sloped surface is opaque and the other is glazed. A contemporary saw tooth roof may have solar collectors or photovoltaic cells on the south-facing slope and daylight glazing on the north-facing slope.DOE Building Technologies Program: Daylighting

(ref.9)Ford adopted the idea of focusing primarily on one mass-produced product with his Model T (a code name assigned by the design department), launched in 1908 and nicknamed the “Tin Lizzie.” Nearly 15 million cars were produced in the twenty years of the Model T’s existence (1908-27); following World War I, more than one new car in two produced in the United States was a Ford Model T. In addition, Ford decided to begin manufacturing all the auto parts on a single site. Architecture Week – Culture – The Factory Architecture of Albert Kahn – 2000.1101

(ref.10)Ford Rouge plant. During the late 1920s and early 1930s the Ford Rouge plant became the largest industrial complex in the world, as well as the most advanced, architecturally and technically.  Because Henry Ford was determined to be independent of suppliers, he developed the Rouge into an almost self-sufficient and self-contained industrial city. Construction began on April 1, 1917 and 10 years later the facility contained 93 structures, 90 miles of railroad tracks, 27 miles of conveyors, 53,000 machine tools and 75,000 employees. Detroit architect Albert Kahn designed most of the complex. Today, the Rouge is only one of many Ford Motor Co. manufacturing and assembling facilities. But it is still unique in American industry. Situated on more than 2,000 acres in Dearborn along the Rouge River, a tributary of the Detroit River southwest of downtown Detroit, the Rouge plant was built to easily receive iron ore from Upper Michigan and coal from Pennsylvania by ship. A huge basin in the Rouge allowed the freighters room to easily dock, unload and manoeuvre out. Henry Ford had purchased the site in 1915 as a new home for his revolutionary automated assembly line, perfected at his Highland Park facility. On May 26, 1927, the last Model T came off the line at Highland Park. In September of that year the new Model A began rolling out of the Rouge plant. Over the next 15 years, 15 million cars paraded out of the Rouge. DETNEWS.COM | History Photo Gallery

(ref.11) Arrol-Johnson, Sir William Arrol was the Engineer (who I am told is Scotland’s most famous) responsible for such works as the bridge in Edinburgh, Sydney Harbour, Nile bridge in Egypt and London Bridge. The car company commenced in 1895 making “Dog Carts” a very basic type of car. Google Image Result for

(ref.12)Albion Car Company. The Albion name has appeared on vehicles from 1899 to 1975, (Taken over by Leyland motors in 1950).
A few private cars were made between 1900 and 1915 of either two or four cylinders. The first motor dogcarts, in June 1900, had tiller steering, gear-change by “Patent Combination Clutches”, solid tyres and cost £400.British Motor Manufacturers 1894-1960, Albion

 (ref.13)Companies applying for licences to build a factory or extension during the First war were required to use as little wood or steel as possible Reinforced concrete became the obvious choice as it used less steel framing and concrete was not in short supply. Joan S Skinner, Form and Fancy, Liverpool, 1997, page 28.

(ref.14) Birmingham Small Arms. BSA dates back to the Crimean War (1854-1856). Fourteen Birmingham gunsmiths founded the Birmingham Small Arms Trade Association to supply armaments to the British government. Their association was cemented in 1861 when they became the Birmingham Small Arms Company. A new factory was built at Small Heath in 1863, which was then on the edge of Birmingham. They diversified into making bicycles, motorcycles and motorcars. Following a turbulent period in the 1960s two BSA companies emerged, BSA Guns and BSA Regal (motorcycles). BSA Guns are still based at the Small Heath factoryGoogle Image Result for

Section 2. Structure and the search for light; taking the factory into a new century.

 Technological developments in factory design of the nineteenth century (ref.1) provided the foundation for the new century in factory building. On reflection, even though such significant technological advances as the introduction of iron framing and reinforced concrete became readily available, as yet, builders were reluctant, with the exception perhaps of Sheerness boathouse (ref.2), to celebrate this material in an outward form. The majority of mill buildings still displayed what we may now call traditional large multi fenestrated look with a brick or stone exterior sometimes of “fortress” proportions as in the “A” Bond warehouse (1905) Bristol (figure2.1) The windows may have got bigger, as buildings became deeper and longer with larger machinery, culminating in the “Mons” mill (1914) (ref.3) (figure2.2) at Todmorden where only thin brick mullions divided the windows, but as yet there were no glass sheet walls.

fig 2.1 A Bond warehouse Bristol

fig 2.1 A Bond warehouse Bristol

fig 2.2 Mons Mill

fig 2.2 Mons Mill

In such warehouse buildings the iron structure was contained within and remained partially supported by an outer load bearing wall. At Sheerness (figure 2.3) the frame became a self supporting structure leaving the outer wall to be free of such load bearing constraints and allow the use of lightweight corrugated iron panels and large areas of glazing.

fig2.3 Sheerness Boathouse

fig2.3 Sheerness Boathouse

At the beginning of the twentieth century, the modern factory was seen as the perfect functional building, with improved materials, building technology, and designed to work with the organisation of the industrial process.  Their core may have been built of the latest reinforced concrete system, have up to date iron beam technology, enjoy open spans of up to 16feet (1900) (ref.4), even lit by the latest carbon arc electric light (ref.5). However, there was no rush to express the theory of rationalism (ref.6) and still outwardly, they could have the appearance of an Italianate Villa (ref.7), a Baroque mansion, (ref.8) (figure 2.4), or sport a Byzantine tower (ref.9) as displayed in John A Campbell’s Northern Insurance building in Glasgow ( ref.10)(figure 2.5) where the display of innovative construction methods are demoted to the rear of the building behind a traditional Scottish façade.

fig2.4 India House

fig2.4 India House


fig 2.5 Northern Insurance Building Glasgow

fig 2.5 Northern Insurance Building Glasgow

The common factor here is the perceived recalcitrance to consider functionalist construction methods to be an important part of architectural design. Buildings that perhaps stand as good examples of forward looking design, such as the Uniroyal Tyre factory in Dumfries (ref.11), (figure 2.6) with its pure rationalism in construction and obvious use of new building methods does not even have a recorded architect.

fig 2.6 Uniroyal Tyre factory

fig 2.6 Uniroyal Tyre factory

This potential of a design approach to the new methods and materials was not as yet openly recognised in Britain. However, events and influences from elsewhere were about to change this with the forming of the “Modern” factory movement in Europe and the forming of the “Model” factory idea in the USA which we will consider next.

1. Main developments were the introduction of fire proofing materials, and the development of the use of structural metals.

2. Sheerness Boathouse, located Inside the Port of Sheerness, is a Grade 2 listed. It was the first of its type of industrial building being a prototype of the multi-storey iron framed building, eschewing the heavily ornate decorative ironwork and elaborate features of the Victorian period. Constructed in 1866 it had operating rails so that they could be moved up and down the length of the building as would a travelling crane. There are plans for this building to be replaced outside the docks as a permanent historical centre for the Island.

 3 . Mons Mill, John Winter. Industrial Architecture, London, 1970, page61

 4 .Span of 16feet, John Winter. Industrial Architecture, London, 1970, page83

 5.  Carbon arc light (1900). John Winter. Industrial Architecture, London, 1970, page61

 6. ref to follow

7.  Bank Mill, Failsworth near Oldham (1906). Edgar Jones, Industrial Architecture in Britain 1750-1939, London 1985, page 161.

 8.  India House, Whitworth Street, Manchester (1905-6), Edgar Jones, Industrial Architecture in Britain 1750-1939, London 1985, page 180.

 9. Broadstone mill near Chorley Lancashire (1910), Edgar Jones, Industrial Architecture in Britain 1750-1939, London, 1985, page 188.

 10. John A Campbell, John Archibald Campbell was born at 20 Park Circus, Anderston, Glasgow, on 26 January 1859. The Northern Insurance building was John Archibald Campbell’s last building – he died during its construction. The Imperial Union Club at 94 St Vincent Street was part of the project. Dictionary of Scottish Architects – DSA Building/Design Report


11. Uniroyal factory, Aka Heathhall Uniroyal Factory, was originally built to manufacture car and aeronautical engines, later being well known for the manufacture of “Hunter” Wellington boots. It became Uniroyal in 1966.Dictionary of Scottish Architects – DSA Building/Design Report

Welcome to Industryinform blog your gateway to industrial architectural history and contexts

Welcome everybody to Industryinform, your gateway to study and news of industrial architecture and history.

 This blog is also a record of my personal study of the industrial architectural scene and its influence upon my furniture design practice. Most of the research stems from contextual content from my recent M.A  furniture design study which is refered to throughout the text.

The record is of a journey, the design journey of Kevin Hallsworth contemporary furniture designer and I use the metaphor of this journey throughout my writings and observations.

The following passages are an introduction to the text……

“The record of a journey of this kind may be more important if it chronicles a succession of moods than if it captures a succession of scenes”(ref.1)

 I refer back to the quote by J B Priestley (ref.2) in his Book English Journey written some 80 years ago, as he describes his journeys approach to the English Black Country (ref 3), which I used in an earlier unit where I allude to the metaphor of a journey in respect to my research studies. I also quote from my own text (ref.4).

 “Whenever I read this, it transports me back to the time, around 20 years ago, that I would be on a journey through this very same area. Most likely, I would have been driving; working with my father, Frank, in our family heating business (ref.5). One of a multitude of journeys like this, travelling to or from one of many of our jobs, where all around were the sights of industry old and new, the factories, the machinery, the people who worked there, and to accompany them, the associated colours, smells and ambience. Within our van, weighed down with the tools and spares of our industrial heating trade, the smells of industrial oils were there and still resonate now along with my own succession of remembered scenes and moods.”

 The mood of this passage has remained with me for the remainder of my study and in this further study I would like to carry this metaphor on to some extent to illustrate my thought processes. The next passage, also quoted from my own earlier texts (ref.6)  is pertinent to the prevailing ethos of my study.

 “I have a deep-rooted interest in industrial buildings, most likely stemming from the time working with my father in and around the West Midlands industrial conurbation. This time has left an impression, physically with my attained skills and mentally with the wish to synthesize the memories and ambience of this time into a tangible form through the medium of furniture design. The majority of the buildings with which I became familiar could be described perhaps as  “basic boxes” or “sheds” with arguably little architectural merit, although even amongst these there were often details remembered, structures, colours , machines etc. that now I shall venture to use as keys to open up ideas for my theme of “industry”. What these buildings were, their design, humble or otherwise, grows out of a chain of events from the past, such as developments in architectural styles, materials innovation and practical need. Conceivably this type of architecture has not been at the forefront of study, it has been put back in favour of much grander buildings.  I wish to engage with these buildings and express my interest in them by the use of the theme of industry in my designs.”

 With these two passages taken in mind the ethos of my design practice has been created and will, I hope become clear to the reader during the following work.

 To briefly recap, the first part of the journey was to explore and evaluate the various research methods available to me to complete my task, my journey. This collected knowledge, was used to build the foundation of the future design units by the creation of a study into the historical contexts of factory design and by the accumulation of a database of images to support this. This collected baggage, became the basis of the design units that followed. Selection and further evaluation from the following units provided the material, the fuel perhaps for the major project designs and the creation of tangible objects.

 The journey is almost over now, but before it is completed, I again need to reflect upon the contexts by means of a more insightful look at what the journey produced, created, and what I gained from it. How I interpreted the signs along the way and chose which route to carry on the metaphor. This is the purpose of the following written study.

To accomplish this task I intend to do the following. In the first main major section I shall again research and reflect upon the contexts surrounding the industrial building in an essay that outlines the architectural scene from the beginning of the 20th century to the present day. This first section will illustrate the factory’s architectural development, through styles and materials and designers, with primary focus on British factories and warehouse type buildings but including pertinent reference to influences from Europe and the USA.

The second main major section will, with reference to the first sections information, describe and evaluate my design processes and illustrate how this physical architectural context has been converted into my design portfolio. Examples images where relevant will be shown.

In the third major section I will refer to the work of other architects and designers not necessarily mentioned in the previous work and compare examples of their practice with mine with reference to how their ethos has influenced my personal design direction.


1. Priestley. J.B. English Journey, Jubilee edition, London, Heinemann, 1984, p.85.

2.J. B. Priestley. Born, Sept. 13, 1894, Bradford, Yorkshire, Eng. died Aug. 14, 1984, Alveston, near Stratford-upon-Avon, Warwickshire. British novelist, playwright, and essayist, noted for his varied output and his ability for shrewd characterization.

 3. “The Black Country” Predominantly an industrial area of the West midlands north west of the city of Birmingham, encompassing the towns of Wolverhampton and Walsall in the north, down through Dudley and West Bromwich to Stourbridge in the south.

 4. M.A Design Research and enterprise unit , introduction

 5.G.T.I Heating services, specialising in the service and repair of industrial heating and ventilating equipment.

 6. M.A Design Negotiated unit 1, introduction to essay.