Another Architecture

by Mitch McEwen

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    Affording Mies

    Mitch McEwen
    Nov 4, '14 1:02 PM EST

    One of the principles that guides my approach to architecture and urban design is the sense that architecture has much more to offer than luxury.  Whether you consider our field professionally in comparison to doctors and lawyers, or as a discipline comparable to art, we have a lot of room to be inspired toward serving a broad range of people.  I often feel like, if we were doctors, we would be all striving to be plastic surgeons and taught by plastic surgeons, and no one would be working on cardiology or general medicine or anything close to public health (except for epidemiology - we are good at crisis) .

    This is part of what makes living in Lafayette Park an everyday education.  While totally problematic in its planning - typical mid-20th century "slum clearance" that erased a vibrant mixed use black neighborhood  - the landscaping and towers and townhomes were designed for mixed income inhabitants.  Coming from New York City, it is amazing to see modernist architecture - forget iconic Mies capital M Modernism, simply a glass tower - existing as something other than a luxury commodity.  Of course, I am frustrated by recent renovation decisions - awful carpet, plastic door nobs on closets - but even these frustrations force me to consider the effects of my preferences.  I re-read Gropius' Bauhuas Manifesto.   "Let us then create a new guild of craftsmen without the class distinctions that raise an arrogant barrier between craftsman and artist!" Sounds like a good plan.  (My hunch is that robots have a lot to offer.  That's for another post.)

    Needless to say, relocating from New York to Detroit put a temporary halt to this blog.  Next up: one or two more Mies-related posts and then some Detroit specific interviews. 

    Rent for this apartment is less than what I was paying for a unit half the size in a tenement building in Crown Heights, Brooklyn.  

        Nothing too precious.

    The delivery of the weekend paper to the front door of my unit feels incredibly luxurious and/or personal.  Also makes me think of the postal delivery system for Unite d'Habitation.


    Due to the lack of thermal break one can check the outside weather pretty accurately this way.  


    • Looking forward to hearing more about Lafayette Park, especially from the towers - lots of blogs and news on the townhomes in recent years, but I don't recall anything covering the towers.  Congrats on your new big-windowed (albeit non-thermally-broken)  home!

      Nov 4, 14 1:40 pm  · 
      Ryan Standfest

      Yes, one never sees anything from/about Lafayette Towers. I currently occupy floor 21 of The Pavilion, the first Lafayette Park high-rise, and hear things now and again about the Towers, but never any visual reportage. Since the Habitat Company, which owns the Pavilion, left Lafayette Towers, I have heard of a degrading of maintenance. Looking forward to following your blog.

      Nov 4, 14 3:37 pm  · 

      Thanks, Donna and Ryan.  The current lease operators, Fourmidable, took over after the HUD auction that followed 2 years of apparently terrible management by another company.  Fourmidable, like most of the management companies operating in Detroit, comes from experience with suburban properties.  The result is a mish mash of interior attitudes that are proliferating throughout towers in the city.  It's kind of like Delirious [Insert Mid-Western Suburb Here].     

      Nov 4, 14 6:59 pm  · 
      Joe Posch

      Mitch, welcome to the greatest apartment you'll ever have (well, in my opinion). If you want a little background on what I like to call "the aesthetic mismanagement of Lafayette Towers" take a look at a blog post I did back after I moved out in 2011: Mies You Much. The Towers still had some decline left in them, but by some accounts there are historically appropriate fixes planned. But then that rumor's been floating around for years.

      As for the updates - they've been invariably bad in both the Towers and the Pavilion. Looked at a two-bedroom back in 2013 and Fourmidable has done some really unfortunate things to some of those places.

      Still, loved my apartment, and that view.

      Nov 4, 14 7:32 pm  · 

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Posts are sporadic. Topics span architecture, urban design, planning, and tangents from these. I sometimes include excerpts of academic articles.

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