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Site History

Beginning in the 1800s, the 103-acre property now referred to as the “GM Stamping Plant” was occupied by the Martin-Parry Carriage Works, which produced wooden buggies and carriages. Chevrolet purchased the site in the 1930s and constructed a modern metal stamping factory. Beginning in 1982, the property was transferred to a series of different divisions, finally ending up in the Metal Stamping Division of General Motors. The facility was one of several closed as GM struggled to emerge from its 2009 bankruptcy during the Great Recession. About 650 jobs were lost, and at one time there were as many as 6,000 people employed at the site. The steel structure of the Crane Bay is the only building which remains of the old plant.

The Crane Bay

The Crane Bay was designed by renowned architect Albert Kahn, who has 60 structures on the National Register of Historic Places and is commonly referred to as the “Architect of Detroit.” Kahn was considered a world prodigy by age 7 and is known for implementing new materials and natural light into manufacturing plants. Using reinforced-concrete instead of the wood that had traditionally been used would significantly decrease the amount of factories that caught fire due to high temperatures. Introducing windows to bring in natural light instantly created a new standard for industrial plants across the world. Over 800 feet of the structure was salvaged and will be an anchor of the new, transformative development. The crane bay is visible from Interstate 70, from airline flights entering Indianapolis, from visitors at the JW Marriott and many other downtown landmarks.

Impossible to overlook, this centerpiece will play a large role in driving the identity of this redevelopment and cultural tourism in Indianapolis, as it literally and conceptually offers a new chance to see, interact with, and talk about art and architecture in Indianapolis. This project will focus the city’s attention to the power of architecture and design to inspire new ways of developing our city and neighborhoods.

Albert Kahn

Albert Kahn. Image via Wikipedia; bio via  Michigan Modern .

Albert Kahn. Image via Wikipedia; bio via Michigan Modern.

Born in Rhaunen, Germany, in 1869, Albert Kahn immigrated with his parents to Detroit, Michigan, in 1881 when he was eleven years old. As a young boy, Kahn worked in an architectural office running errands and doing odd jobs before enrolling in the art school of Julius Melchers where he learned drawing skills.

His real architectural training began when he was hired in 1885 by Detroit architect George Mason, who took the young man under his wing at the Mason & Rice architectural firm. While there, Kahn earned a scholarship in 1891 to spend a year touring Europe and broadening his knowledge of European architecture. Upon his return to the Mason & Rice office, Kahn was promoted to chief designer, a position he held for four years.

In 1895 Kahn left Mason & Rice to open his own architecture practice in Detroit. His younger brothers Louis, Moritz, and Felix soon came to work with him. Together they created one of the most dynamic architectural offices in America.