Revealing Modernism’s ‘Holy Grail’

Lafayette Park is a thriving and diverse neighborhood of high rises and townhouses designed by Mies van der Rohe. This unique modern architecture success story in Detroit is showcased in a new book "Thanks for the View, Mr. Mies."
January 16, 2013, 6am PST | Jessica Hsu
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"Thanks for the View, Mr. Mies is the kind of post-occupancy study that every great building deserves but few receive," says Kelsey Campbell-Dollaghan. "It's technical in parts, surveying the structural and environmental failures and successes of Mies's designs. But it's also incredibly personal, giving us a fine-grained look at the social ecology of the neighborhood." The book is a detailed compilation of experiences, interviews, essays and photographs by three residents Danielle Aubert, Lana Cavar and Natasha Chandani. They discuss how pool parties, wildlife, and barbershops contribute to the neighborhood's vibrancy, but Campbell-Dollaghan observes, "A major theme is diversity: Mies’s white-box apartments enable a culture of individualization that bred enthusiastic and loyal residents."

Lafayette Park is located in one of the most segregated cities in the country, but the building is home to a diverse mix of age, ethnicity, and occupation, a tribute to those enthusiastic and loyal residents. Although Lafayette Park could have faced the same urban blight experienced by many other modernist high-rises, says Campbell-Dollaghan, the neighborhood has remained healthy due to "the collective intelligence of Mies, urban planner Ludwig Hilbersheimer, and landscape architect Alfred Caldwell," and "a combination of factors ranging from its proximity to downtown, to its historical pedigree, to its community of friendly neighborhoods."

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Published on Friday, January 11, 2013 in Fast Company Co.Design
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