Lafayette Pavilion Apartments

Lafayette Pavilion Apartments
  1. About the Lafayette Pavilion Apartments in Detroit
    1. Building Catalogations
  2. Architect and team
  3. Architectural style
  4. Spaces and uses
  5. Structure and materials

The Lafayette Pavilion Apartments is an International Style skyscraper designed by Mies van der Rohe and built between 1955 and 1958 in Detroit, MI.

Its precise street address is 1 Lafayette Plaisance, Detroit, MI. You can also find it on the map here.

The Lafayette Pavilion Apartments is a structure of significant importance both for the city of Detroit and the United States as a nation. The building embodies the distinctive characteristic features of the time in which it was built and the International Style style. Because of that, the Lafayette Pavilion Apartments was officially included in the National Register of Historic Places in 1996.

The Lafayette Pavilion Apartments are part of the four towers Mies developed in Lafayette Park. The others are the:

  • Windsor Tower
  • Lafayette Towers Apartments West and East

All of which were added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1996.

Building's timeline

Construction begins
Construction completed
Added to the NRHP
years ago

Architect and team

Mies van der Rohe was the architecture firm in charge of the architectural design. But there was also one other architect involved, as far as we know. We are talking about Ludwig Hilbersheimer.

Ludwig Mies van der Rohe was born in 1886 in Germany. During the first part of his career, he ran his own practice in Berlin, and later on became the director of the Bauhaus School of Architecture.

Mies is considered one of the fathers of modern architecture. His work played an instrumental role in defining the aesthetics of the International Style, emphasizing simplicity, clean lines, and the use of modern materials like steel and glass. His famous statement, "less is more" sums up his design philosophy, which advocated for the elimination of unnecessary ornamentation and a return to the fundamental principles of architecture.

After the Bauhaus was shut down by the Natzi regime, he emigrated to Chicago. There he became the director of the IIT School of Architecture, as well as ran his own architectural firm. During his years in Chicago he continued to explore and promote the principles of the International Style, and had a huge impact on the development of modern skyscrapers.

His legacy can not only be found spread throughout Europe and the US in the shape of iconic buildings such as the German Pavilion, the Tugendhat House, the Crown Hall or the Seagram Building, but also in the architecture curriculum he developed at the IIT which greatly influenced many generations of architects, even to this day.

Mies Van Der Rohe

Mies van der Rohe and the other architects already mentioned were in charge of the architectural design, however, architecture is a complex discipline involving many professionals from different fields, without whom this building would have not been possible. We will surely be leaving out a lot of names here, but here is a list of the people we do know also played their part in making the Lafayette Pavilion Apartments a reality:

  • Herbert Greenwald as the Main Developer
  • Alfred Caldwell in charge of Landscape Architecture

Architectural Style

The Lafayette Pavilion Apartments can be categorized as an International Style building.

The international style originated in Europe in the early 20th century, and made its way to the US a couple of decades later when the rise of the Nazi regime forced figures such as Walter Gropius, Marcel Breuer, or Mies van der Rohe to flee Europe.

The International Style emerged as a response to the prevailing historicism and ornate architecture styles of the late 19th century, which according to a younger generation of architects didn't represent the new materials and construction techniques that were on the rise at the time.

Architecture in the early 20th century US was marked by the adoption of steel structures, modern construction techniques, and the rise of the skyscraper. As it turns out, this combination of circumstances created the perfect ecosystem for the International Style to flourish, becoming the to-go style for skyscraper designs during the mid-20th century, when American cities were growing fast.

The International Style’s legacy can not only be found in numerous iconic buildings across all major American cities, but also incorporated in contemporary architecture, which still puts a big emphasis on functionality and minimalism.

The Lafayette Pavilion Apartments was completed in 1958. By 1958 the International Style movement had already left its early days behind and could be considered a mature movement, which does not mean it was loved and accepted by everyone, on the contrary. The International Style was accepted by the architecture community way before it was by the general public, and it is therefore likely that the Lafayette Pavilion Apartments was not well received by everyone at the time.

Spaces & Uses

The Lafayette Pavilion Apartments reaches an architectural height of 220ft (67m). It has a total of 23 floors, 22 above ground and 1 basements.

Ever since opening its doors to the public in 1958, the Lafayette Pavilion Apartments has mainly been used as Residential space.

About the residences

The Lafayette Pavilion Apartments has a total of 340 residential units throughout its 22 floors. If you are interested in learning more about the residences and their availability, you can check the Lafayette Pavilion Apartments's website.

220ft (67m)
1 basements

Materials & Structure

The Lafayette Pavilion Apartments uses a frame structure made of concrete columns and beams.

A frame structure uses a combination of beams and columns to sustain the building's weight. The walls in this case are non-load bearing, which allows for more flexibility when distributing the interior spaces.

The facade is non-load bearing either, as it is common in frame structure type buildings.

From an aesthetic point of view, the facade features a window wall type of facade with aluminum-clad columns that rise from the second floor to the top of the building, creating 10 bays on the wider side of the building's facade, and three on the narrower side.

Each module of the window wall is divided into 4 distinct windows. A large panoramic fixed glass at the top, with a narrow row below it, which is divided into 2 small, fixed glass squares on both sides and a narrow, long horizontal window in between which can be opened.

The tower rises above a two-story base, which retract from the facade plane, exposing the structural columns and creating a covered outdoor space at ground level.

Other materials found at the Lafayette Pavilion Apartments include, green marble, found in the lobby's walls , and terrazo, used for the lobby's floors .