Detroit is undergoing unprecedented deletion of its architectural fabric and with it vital histories are erased. It is essential that the traditional narratives are deconstructed and recombined to include the voices of those on the margins, people of color, immigrants and women. The agency of the architect lies in utilizing preservation strategies to generate new ways of seeing.
Listed in the National Register of Historic Places Lafayette Park is a high rise residential neighborhood east of Downtown Detroit. Designed by Mies van der Rohe Lafayette Park was planned in 1946 to replace the ‘Black Bottom’ neighborhood which was considered a slum.
Lafayette park erased a significant part of Detroit’s history. In the early 20th century large numbers of African-Americans migrated from the South in search of work in Detroit. Considered unwelcome in ‘White’ Neighborhoods they found their home in the ‘Black Bottom’ . The Black Bottom was home to many thriving businesses, Jazz clubs and vibrant communities.
To bring forth the hidden historic narratives embedded in this site the tectonics of the Lafayette Park Towers present an opportunity to elevate and showcase the multiple histories of this site. Using the experiential and spatial qualities of both the Black Bottom and Lafayette Park and recombining them we can develop a new architecture for Detroit. This form can be used as a laboratory for new social engagements, one in which all the communities of Detroit can be heard.