The publication Thanks for the View, Mr. Mies illustrates life in the Lafayette Park neighborhood of downtown Detroit, home to the largest collection of Mies van der Rohe-designed buildings in the world. Here, we focus attention on the community of people who live in his buildings and attempt to open up a discussion between architecture connoisseurs and architecture users.
Most architectural publications glorify iconic architecture like Mies van der Rohe’s by showing photographs of buildings, mainly from the outside, and barely furnished interiors with hardly any people in them. Thanks for the View, Mr. Mies shows life in Lafayette Park from the inside out, taking the point of view of its homeowners, tenants, and staff — people with long-term, intimate knowledge of living with Mies.
While much has been written about Mies’s life and work, Lafayette Park has received relatively little attention. In this book we examine the way this utopian mid-20th century urban renewal project has successfully survived and adapted to present-day conditions in Detroit.
Lafayette Park was built as the result of the Gratiot Redevelopment Project initiated in the 1940s, when Detroit’s city government approved the destruction of a densely populated working class African-American neighborhood called Black Bottom. Thousands of residents were displaced and the area remained vacant until the city retained Chicago-based developer Herbert Greenwald, architect Mies van der Rohe, urban planner Ludwig Hilberseimer and landscape designer Alfred Caldwell to design a plan for the area. Three 22-floor high-rises, 21 buildings with 186 ground-level housing units, and a large park were completed by the early 1960s.
Lafayette Park today is one of the most racially integrated neighborhoods in Detroit, a city with the distinction of being the most segregated in the country for African-Americans. The neighborhood remains economically stable despite the fact that Detroit has suffered enormous population loss and bears innumerable signs of strained city services.
Contributors and Photographers—
Corine Vermeulen partnered with us on Thanks for the View, Mr. Mies. She is a Dutch photographer who settled in Detroit in 2006. A winner of the 2009 Kresge Arts in Detroit Fellowship, she is currently completing her long-term project, “Your Town Tomorrow” which documents Detroit’s shifting social and geographic ecologies. We also worked with photographers Karin Jobst and Vasco Roma.
Contributors include a mix of writers, photographers, designers, and architects who have lived in Lafayette Park: Toby Barlow, Marsha Cusic, Janine Debanne, Melissa Dittmer, Paul Elliman, Joe Posch, Noah Resnick, Hilary Robie and Karen Tonso.