Monday, June 2, 2014

Out and About: Lafayette Park in Detroit, Michigan

Lafayette Park is a small housing development built in the first half of the 1960s on the east side of Detroit. Consisting of two high-rise apartment buildings and a small grid of one- and two-story townhouses as well as an elementary school and a tiny shopping center, the complex was designed by the famous modernist architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe (1886-1969) and is rather representative of his signature style. In between and all around the lovely, airy residences are leafy, manicured grounds that shield the neighborhood from the surrounding roads and the city.

One of the rows of two-story townhouses

In between blocks

Across the neighborhood green

I was surprised to find that the school integrated into the complex had lush red-leafed Canna growing all along the front of the building. The building must leak heat like crazy for these tender tropicals to have not only survived one of the harshest winters on record but to have already regrown to a height of two feet or so by the end of May when spring had been so late and comparatively cool.

A red-leafed Canna cultivar flourishing seemingly without any help along the outside walls of the neighborhood school

Detroit is, of course, a famously troubled city, and while there is much more to see and do than many people think, large parts of it are still not exactly pretty. Lafayette Park, however, is beautiful, even if it is only a small enclave, and definitely worth a look.


  1. Quite fascinated with Detroit ourselves despite making the news and all.

    1. It is changing noticeably in the last couple of years, and there a lot of positive developments - cool new businesses, buildings being renovated, expanding farmers markets, lots of hipsters...

  2. Very nice to see something beautiful about Detroit! I would never have thought that cannas could make it through a winter there!

    1. They usually cannot, though I have come a few other gardens around here where a particularly protected spot appears to allow them to persevere, but nowhere else were they flourishing like this. That is why I am thinking the heating system from the building must be somehow heating the flowerbeds immediately adjacent to the building all through the winter. The insulation must be very poor.


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