America, the Motherland of Industry, possesses some majestic original constructions which far outstrip anything of a similar kind achieved in Germany. The compelling monumentality of the Canadian and South America grain elevators, the coaling bunkers built for the leading railway companies and the newest work halls of the great North American industrial trusts can almost bear comparison with the work of the ancient Egyptians in their overwhelming monumental power. The impact of these buildings seems to lie in the fact that American builders have retained a natural feeling for large compact forms, fresh and intact. Our own architects might take this as a valuable hint and refuse to pay any more attention to those fits of historicist nostalgia and other intellectual fancies under which European creativity still labors. Fits of historicist nostalgia: that describes pretty well the public architecture of Albert Kahn; but not the designs he executed for the automobile industry, starting with Packard Plant Building No. 10 (1907) on East Grand Boulevard. There, beyond the aspirations of the downtown gentry and the reach of art, Kahn arrived unawares at the now familiar idiom of architectural modernity: glass sheathing; flat-roofed, unadorned spaces illuminated from above; structural steel skeletons and reinforced concrete columns. (Kahn’s brother Julius, a civil engineer, had developed a new system for reinforcing concrete.) His adaptable, open-plan factories are precisely the type of buildings that Gropius praised for their “compelling monumentality.”
Sunlight softly filtered through a rectangular cloth awning draped between each pair of carved and painted wooden beams in the Garden Court. ... The four white walls reflected the ambient light. Terra-cotta roundels with Etruscan motifs were mounted along the upper registers, and marble masques in antique style flanked each corner of the court. A huge stepped fountain, with fish in its pools and tropical vegetation in its planters, dominated the center of the court. ... The court served as resting place from museum fatigue, a grand architectural space with the soft play of light, fresh smell of plants, and soothing sounds of water. And into this dappled and serene space, Rivera proposed to inject the racket of the assembly line, the stink of industry, the vividly rendered bodies of working men. Cret was outraged. He wrote to Albert Kahn, imploring his fellow architect to intervene — to halt this project so "out of harmony" with the "international Beaux-Arts style" of his design.  But the Depression had bankrupted the Institute of Arts; Edsel Ford was paying the bills, and the murals proceeded to cover the courtyard walls as planned.
[Babbitt’s] high moment came in the clash of traffic when he was halted at the corner beneath the lofty Second National Tower. His car was banked with four others in a line of steel restless as a cavalry, while the cross-town traffic, limousines and enormous moving-vans and insistent motor-cycles, poured by; on the farther corner, pneumatic riveters rang on the sun-plated skeleton of a new building; and out of this tornado flashed the inspiration of a familiar face, and a fellow Booster shouted, "H’are you, George!" Babbitt waved in neighborly affection, and slid on with the traffic as the policeman lifted his hand. He noted how quickly his car picked up. He felt superior and powerful, like a shuttle of polished steel darting in a vast machine. To feel yourself part of that “vast machine,” to become one with the forces that were constructing buildings and moving traffic — that is an instance of true sublimity. In that surrender, Babbitt feels "superior and powerful." But still, it’s not the dehumanized surrender of an automaton (like the one in Fritz Lang’s Metropolis); this an altogether empowering and companionable moment, with the fellow Booster shouting that affectionate “H'are you.” Class differences notwithstanding, I don’t think it’s absurd to find here a fictional rendering of the men in Rivera’s murals, making their way together inside the machine, having their way with modernity just as modernity was having its way with them, and feeling exhilarated at being incorporated into the immense new design, as if in recompense for what the design might actually be costing in human terms. Lewis is, of course, satirizing his character, a booster-realtor who makes a career promoting the development of subdivisions, and for a few decades "Babbitry" came to stand for a kind of small-minded provincialism; but there’s no denying the results. I think old George understood clearly enough why a man with any gumption would want to put the wife and kids in the car and tootle up the avenue, away from the noise and the crowds, to what looked like the peace of the suburban city on a hill, which was exactly the place he was just then helping to create.
HOME OF THE MODEL TBut then you look around, and the inscription seems a sad and bitter joke. The plant — what’s left of it — is a wreck, actually one wreck in the midst of a wasteland of industrial-age wrecks. And Highland Park, once an affluent municipality, has become one of the poorest and most dangerous places in America. Now try to imagine that Independence Hall looks like this — not the replica built by Henry Ford at Greenfield Village, but the real one, in Philadelphia. That would get people’s attention, like some Planet of the Apes counterfactual of American history, with its ironic and dystopic rendering of what the future has made of the past.
Here at his Highland Park Plant, Henry Ford in 1913 began the mass production of automobiles on a moving assembly line. By 1915 Ford built a million Model T’s. In 1925 over 9,000 were assembled in a single day. Mass production soon moved from here to all phases of American industry and set the pattern of abundance for 20th Century living.