The Lemke House by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe as Part of “The Detroit-Berlin Connection”

The Lemke House by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe as Part of “The Detroit-Berlin Connection”

In “The Detroit-Berlin Connection” series, the Detroit radio station WDET-FM has extensively discussed issues of urban planning and urban development in Detroit and Berlin. By means of interviews, videos and slideshows, it traces the comparable tendencies, opportunities and difficulties in the two metropolitan areas.

The history of both cities has been characterised by economic changes and the corresponding social upheavals. In view of its metamorphosis into the most exciting capital of Europe, Berlin – whose fate obviously was and is closely associated with the Second World War, the Cold War and the collapse of the Eastern Block – is seen as a role model for a possible and hoped-for rebirth of Detroit. Similar to Berlin, the largest city in Michigan is battling a high unemployment rate and the vacancy of many buildings due to the demise of local industry. This makes a new course with regards to the economic orientation and self-image appear necessary and desirable.

During a six-week visit to the German capital, WDET-FM reporter Martina Guzmán tried to find out what type of parallels may exist in terms of urban development between Detroit and Berlin, as well as whether the approaches to solutions that she found there could be applied to North American circumstances or at least serve as inspiration.

The results of her research were broadcast at the beginning of October in “The Detroit-Berlin Connection” series and are now also available on the Internet as an audio slideshow. The various contributions come from politicians, urban planners, historians and artists, as well as simple residents of the cities, who are trying to find answers to issues such as the following: How can the city re-invent itself? How can a creative approach be taken to (industrial) sectors and vacant buildings? How do artists and creatives promote the revival of entire city districts?




But there are also very direct cultural relationships such as the close connections between the Berlin techno scene and Detroit’s techno DJs or the segment on Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, in which the links are shown between Berlin’s Lemke House (1932) and Detroit’s Lafayette Park (1961 – 1965). With the Lemke House, which was the last residence built by Mies in Germany, he initially realised his ideas for the courtyard house. These bore fruit in the row houses of Lafayette Park and represent their essential attribute of integrating the glassed-in interior rooms with open spaces designed as the garden.

Nicole Mende 




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