Mies van der Rohe’s 1950s Detroit Townhouse Has Glass Walls
Located in Detroit’s Lafayette Park, this Ludwig Mies van der Rohe townhouse is a meticulous piece of mid-20th-century architecture, updated with a cool Ikea kitchen.
Ludwig (“Less is more”) Mies designed 162 of these townhouses, and they are almost identical but for modifications made by the owners. Like row houses, they are gathered side by side in small groups.
They are part of the graceful park and residential mix that forms Lafayette Park just east of downtown – near town, near the Detroit RiverWalk, near the Oriental Market, designed and built in the 1950s under the umbrella of urban renewal. Other features in the neighborhood are 24 one-story courtyard houses and two high-rise buildings.
The area is so well known in architectural circles, said unit owner Jennifer Reinhardt, “You look and see people with cameras, you see Japanese tourists.”
This townhouse has the advantage of opening onto the district’s Pleasure Park, which makes the view from your living room even more spacious.
“I love the landscaping,” Reinhardt said.
She noted that Mies and her fellow planners, including landscape architect Alfred Caldwell, filled the grounds with young honey acacia trees, which have since transformed into a leafy canopy. From a drone shot overhead, this area looks like woods.
“Thinking they were planning 40 years in advance,” Reinhardt said.
Mies was a proponent of the international style, which emerged in the 1930s. Steel beams carry the weight of his buildings, not wooden bracings, nor piles of stones or bricks. This means that the exposed walls can be all glass, and in these townhouses they are, both in the front and in the back.
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Up front, floor-to-ceiling glass runs down the side of the entrance and dining area. At the rear is the living room, with a view of the park beyond.
In this townhouse, the living room, dining room and three bedrooms are all the same spaces as expected, all with a single wall of glass.
The long galley kitchen, which runs along one side of the building and receives its light from both ends, has been completely updated.
It now has new black textured cabinets with stainless steel handles. The devices are all integrated in stainless steel. Its countertops are in gray granite and its backsplashes are a mixture of small blue tiles.
The downstairs powder room also has a contemporary upgrade. It now has a floating cabinet, suspended to give the impression of having more space. Its sink and counter are in poured concrete. Its floor is concrete slabs.
This row of townhouses has a difference from the others. All of its units have geothermal heat, which keeps the cost of energy low, Reinhardt said.
Real estate agent Jason Hill said these townhouses are particularly sought after by people whose fields are related to architecture, art, preservation or town planning.
“They like the minimalist style, the art gallery atmosphere.” Hill said.
This would include Reinhardt, whose specialty is preservation planning. After working here for a non-profit group and then for the city of Detroit, she moved to a new location.
Mid-century modern in the park
Or: 1415 Nicolet Place, Detroit
How much: $ 369,000
Thermal baths: 1½
Square feet: 1,400
Main characteristics: Classic townhouse by Mies van der Rohe in Lafayette Park. Beautiful setting, glass walls, close to downtown, the Detroit River, the Eastern Market and more. Cooperative property.
Cooperative fees: $ 1,077 per month. As a co-op fee, this covers more than the usual condo fees – gas, cable, internet, water, property taxes, security and more.
Interesting fact: The great architect began his life as Ludwig Mies, Mies meaning misery in German. But he broadened his name to fit the stature he had achieved. After several versions, he decided to add “vander Rohe”, or, from Rohe’s family, his mother’s maiden name. This puts him in the company of someone called Le Corbusier, whose real name is Charles Edouard Jeanneret.
Contact: Jason Hill, Historic Realty Detroit, 313-220-4820.