Lafayette Park, Detroit, is the largest residential district that architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe and planner Ludwig Hilberseimer realised in the late 1950's and early 1960's. Its highly abstract language of architecture - concrete floored, flat roofed glass houses and balconiless glass towers - proffers an interesting basis from which to launch a questioning of the meaning of domestic space. The architecture's sparseness, free plan, precise dimensions and transparent outer walls, contrast with the spatial qualities of the traditional American home. The ways in which the architecture is inflected by its occupants, and reciprocally, residents' responses to the architecture, are here examined with a view to yielding insights into the character of modernist spaces. We know modernism's ideals but less of its realities. In sharp distinction with Mies's Chicago works, Lafayette Park does not house an exclusively upper income public educated in modernist design aesthetics; its population is racially and economically diverse and includes subsidised tenants. This unusual situation renders the question of modernism's reception all the more meaningful.

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Keywords Architecture, Curtain wall, Domestic space, Free plan, Furniture, Glass skyscraper, Glass slab, House, Mier van der Rohe, Modernism, United States
Persistent URL dx.doi.org/10.3406/geo.2001.1733
Journal Annales de géographie
Citation
Debanne, M. (2001). Moving into Mies: Life in open space Moving into Mies: La vie dans le vide. Annales de géographie, (620), 425–453. doi:10.3406/geo.2001.1733