Jun, 13, 2012,
11:23 AM

1989 in Lafayette Park

In connection with our exhibition on Lafayette Park, we’ll feature a historic document each week. These newsletters, invitations, and bits of information are courtesy of Betty Brown and the publication "Thanks for the View, Mr. Mies," 2012. If you would like to share ephemera from Lafayette Park, send us a copy at miesmembership@iit.edu.

This week’s item is a flyer announcing the “Mies van der Bash,” a gathering to honor Lafayette Park’s 30th anniversary in July of 1989 “in the cul de sac at the end of Nicolet Place.” In this document, residents are described as “risk takers who believed in the future of our downtown.” That downtown, of course, was Detroit. The “risk” was living in the inner city and thereby countering the trend of upper-middle class white people moving to the suburbs. The perceived liability they undertook by choosing to live in Lafayette Park underscores the sort of racism that led to the Detroit Riots in 1967.

Whether Lafayette Park’s residents were risk takers or simply takers (appropriating land thanks to federal legislation designed to reconfigure Detroit demographics), was probably beside the point for those who received this flyer. There was going to be a picnic.

The all-caps document, which looks like it was pounded out on a typewriter, announced admission at $4 per adult and $2 per child, which would be about $7.50 and $3.75 today.

The menu included grilled hot dogs, “home made buns,” cole slaw, baked beans, and macaroni salad, with ice cream bars for desert. The flyer was sure to note “beverages will include several kinds of the more popular soft drinks” (this was likely an important detail considering the cola wars of the 1980s and the racial history tied to the marketing of cola).

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May, 21, 2012,
9:49 AM

Lafayette Park Exhibition Insiders to speak June 16

This summer the Mies Society is excited to present an exhibition on one of the first urban renewal projects in the United States, Lafayette Park in Detroit. This innovative Mies design puts the pedestrian first and maximizes interior space. And it was created with the help of his notable contemporaries.

Landscape designer Alfred Caldwell and urban designer Ludwig Hilberseimer collaborated with Mies to create a space for the middle class to remain in the city during the 1960s.

On Saturday, June 16 from 3:30 to 5 p.m. in Crown Hall, Kevin Harrington will give a talk on this dream design team. The Illinois Institute of Technology professor emeritus has written and lectured widely on Mies and his colleagues. This lecture, “Figure and Pattern-Mies, Hilberseimer and Caldwell at Lafayette Park,” will be followed by refreshments and an opportunity to peruse the exhibition.

In addition to Kevin Harrington’s talk, members of the team at Politecnico di Milano, who organized the exhibition, will be featured. Francesca Scotti, Adalberto Del Bo, and Francesco Bruno all teach at the Bovisa campus of the Politecnico.

The exhibition catalog features “The Two Ludwigs in Detroit” by Del Bo and “The Openness of the Urban Framework and the Mixed Construction Type” by Bruno. Scotti edited the catalog and contributed to the essay “Lafayette Park in the Developement of Ludwig Hilberseimer’s City Idea.” Del Bo served as principal advisor for the exhibition and catalog. It will be published in English and Italian and will be available at this event.

This event is free and open to the public.

Image by JoelInSouthernCA via flickr

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May, 14, 2012,
12:25 PM

Last Days of European Architectural Tour

In the last days of our European Architectural Tour, we snapped a few highlights. Be sure to click back through our blog posts to see each day, from May 3 to May 14, 2012.

Above: In this image of the original staircase at the Neues Museum in Berlin, note the ornate decorations and side-by-side staircases.

Above: This photograph of the very same space within the Neues Museum portrays post-war ravage.

Above: David Chipperfield Architects received the Mies Architecture European Union Prize in 2011 for their minimalist work on the staircases.

Above: And while David Chipperfield and Julian Harrap relied on minimalism, they also revealed the historic decorative elements unique to the original space.

Above: We took a Spree River Cruise aboard Aphrodite and caught glimpses of structures such as the one above. It is where Chancellor of Germany Angela Merkel works and connects to her helicopter pad.


Above: Here is the Koolhaas-designed embassy for the Netherlands as seen from our river tour.


Above: And here is an old pumping station that was transformed to a modern dance performance space accompanied by offices and apartment units.


Above: Here is a site where Mies proposed a famous pointed-corner glass skyscraper in the 1920s. And that’s what went up many years later instead.

Above: Here is the Reichstag with crosses showing how many died trying to escape to the west across this point in the river.

Above: The cantilevered building is a new hotel by German architects.



Above: Tucking into lunch on the boat

Above: We visited Villa Urbig in Potsdam, Germany. It has been carefully restored and is a part-time private residence. We were given a special tour of the exterior.



Above: Note this travertine window. Certainly this is not the way Mies used travertine in the United States.

Above: It has been said that the original client wanted columns, but Mies was not so sure. He seems to have taken a minimal approach and planned for vines to grow up and cover them.

Above: Work was being done to repair the leaky travertine porch.

Above: Look at this simple iron railing. Pretty minimal considering the home was build in 1915 to 1917.

Well, good reader, thanks for following us on our architectural tour. We selected photographs of details we hoped would better acquaint you with Mies and the countries in which he worked. Without intending it, it seemed the theme of our trip was restoration.

Buildings we visited were either new but formed around a particular historical context (think the Sony Building in Berlin, which replaced a war-wrecked site) or had been recently restored (think Villa Tugendhat in Brno, Czech Republic), or were in the midst or restoration. No matter the state of the structure we visited, the mark of Mies was evident.

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May, 11, 2012,
5:17 PM

Murphy-Jahn tour of Sony Center

We’re on the sixth day of our European architectural tour, and if there is a theme to any day, today’s is politics. Scroll down for some pictures from our special-access escapade. But first, check out our expertly guided tour of Sony Center Berlin.


Above: Before Murphy-Jahn’s Sony Center Berlin (second image below), the building’s site was lively. Then WWII came and decimated it, leaving one building and some trees (directly below).

Above: Glimpse of Sony Center Berlin



Above: Murphy Jahn’s design of Sony Center Berlin includes Mies’ staircase design.



Above: The security entrance to the Reichstag includes Jenny Holzer’s work, which displays 20 days of parliament speeches.





Above: Thanks to some string-pulling, we had special access today to visit the Bundestag although it was in session. We started in a private room to learn about German politics and walked through the building through a special tunnel (below) into Reichstag.

Above: Interior of tunnel leading to Reichstag

Above: The cupola on the Reichstag building

Eventually we made our way to the cupola by Sir Norman Foster and had a delicious lunch of buttered potatoes, white asparagus and wiener schnitzel.

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