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Living in a Mies-designed home

Nine living rooms in a Mies-designed townhouse complex.*

For an awful long time Detroit has gotten a bad rap:  corrupt politicians gone wild, vanishing population/business bases, plummeting home prices, and hair-raising crime levels.  Does this place have anything going for it?  Architecture enthusiasts would answer with an emphatic, yes!  Detroit has an abundance of unique homes.  There are large distinguished Victorian mansions,  exquisite arts and crafts homes, and Lafayette Park: an enclave of modernist townhouses built by several world-class designers – Ludwig Hilbersheimer as urban planner, Alfred Caldwell as landscape designer and Mies van der Rohe as architect.

Lafayette Park, Michigan*

This week the New York Times’ online version has a fascinating interactive audio feature, called Living Rooms With a View, where nine occupants currently residing in Lafayette Park comment on how they feel about living in their Mies townhomes.   Several moved in with no idea about the historical context of their home.  Several even expressed a distaste of midcentury modernism.  However they discuss how they made the space work for them which alludes to an important goal of home design – it should let the occupants bring out their own style whether that coincides with the original architects’ design philosophy or not.

* Photography by Corine Vermeulen.  Courtesy of the New York Times.

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