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An old black and white photograph of five men, two sitting, with one signing a document.
Albert Kahn (bottom left) signs a contract to become consulting architect for the Soviet Union on January 9, 1930. 
Albert Kahn Associates

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Revisit these 5 Curbed Detroit stories that have nothing to do with coronavirus

If you need a little distraction, here’s some great writing about Detroit from the last few months

Whether you’ve gotten sick, lost your job, or simply avoided contact with friends and family, coronavirus has been an all-consuming phenomenon that’s disrupted almost everyone’s lives. If nothing else, it’s been challenging psychologically, as we preoccupy ourselves with the latest news and find it difficult to read about anything else.

Sometimes we just need a break. If that’s what you’re looking for, then here are five engrossing stories published in Curbed Detroit from the last few months. These articles run the gamut, from a little-known piece of history on the “Architect of Detroit” to a nonprofit’s project to make its building net zero energy.

And if you’re looking for even more to distract you, also check out our favorite Detroit homes from last year. Happy reading.


Drawing of a sprawling industrial facility on an open plan. There’s writing in Russian in the bottom left corner. Albert Kahn Associates

How Detroit’s architect helped the Soviet Union industrialize

By Irene Brisson

By May 1929, Kahn’s firm had secured a contract to design and supervise the construction of a tractor factory 650 miles southeast of Moscow. The Stalingrad Tractor Factory was designed by workers in Albert Kahn Associates’ office in Detroit, built from prefabricated steel components shipped from the United States, and outfitted with U.S.-manufactured machinery. Truly, the factory was an American import to the Soviet Union.


A person manipulates a large puppet of a white man in a black suite with several people watching nearby. Behind them is a large stone building. AP

How the Morouns became Detroit’s least trustworthy billionaire family

By Tom Perkins

The Bel-Air announcement served as a reminder: Before Mike Ilitch became Detroit’s boogeyman billionaire dujour by acquiring entire neighborhoods, emptying them out, and demolishing buildings as part of a cynical plan to enrich his family, Matty Moroun did the same on an even larger scale.


Low metallic silver buildings line a street. There’s a lot of trees surrounding them. There’s taller buildings in the distance. Chris Miele

Core City developer outlines grand plans for district

By Aaron Mondry

Kafka has been steadily developing at the Core City intersection over the past few years, constructing or redeveloping buildings in a striking way. The once-sleepy area now has residential Quonset huts, a former auto repair shop-turned-restaurant, a former parking lot-turned-park, and an idiosyncratic set of buildings that house a bakery, coffee roaster, offices, and studios.


Aerial view of a large industrial site with smoke emanating from chimneys. Shutterstock

‘The dirtiest square mile in Michigan’

By Brian Allnutt

Although U.S. Steel operations will still continue in a diminished capacity on the island—along with those of other facilities like the DTE-owned EES Coke—it’s the end of an era. It’s also a fitting time to look back on the history of Zug Island, now that its pivotal role in Detroit’s industrial economy is changing and being reevaluated.


A hallway with carpeted floors and natural blue light coming from repeating square skylights. Courtesy of EcoWorks

The multi-year journey to make a concrete Yamasaki building net zero energy

By Aaron Mondry

Being an organization that supports sustainable building design and development, EcoWorks wanted to give a similar treatment at its own offices. But it somehow managed to find one of the more challenging buildings for a green conversion.

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