Classical and modern townhouses. The Lafayette Park project by Mies Van der Rohe_0003_Lafayette Park-Mies Van der Rohe

Classical and modern townhouses. The Lafayette Park project by Mies Van der Rohe

Classical and modern townhouses (terraced houses in UK), the Lafayette Park project by Mies van der Rohe with 3D BIM model, floor plans and dwg area views ready to download

Here's our follow-up article dedicated to the various well-known building types and, in particular, an in-depth focus on townhouses.
In our previous article we had a look at how townhouses are defined and also analyzed the characterizing elements that are normally addressed during the design process.

Read Part I of the article dedicated to Townhouses

In this second article we will start to discuss some of the most important projects of classical and modern townhouses (terraced houses in UK) made by famous architects with a detailed analysis and description. Then we'll reproduce the relating BIM model together with floor plans DWGs, isometric views, elevation and cross-section views, all available for download...

The first project is the Lafayette Park in Detroit by architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe.

In this article:


Click here to download Edificius, the architectural design BIM software

3D BIM model download

In this post we'll take a look at Mies van der Rohe's architectural concept and at the projects that made him one of the most influential architects of the 20th century.

Before seeing Mies' works in more detail, we have provided the Edificius native .EDF file format containing the entire 3D BIM Model. You can download it here below.


Townhouses perspective on the example of Lafayette Park project by Mies van der Rohe - produced by EDF files

Download the townhouses 3D BIM model (.edf Edificius file) in Lafayette Park

Townhouses by famous architects

There are numerous relevant examples of townhouses projects that deserve to be mentioned. Let's briefly recall some of them, focusing on works made by some European architects.

The Heuberg residential complex in Vienna, for instance, designed by A. Loos in 1920 consists of a series of council townhouses characterized by the presence of a terraced step section where each living unit is integrated with a small plot of arable land useful for the dwellers' food sustenance.

The townhouses in the working class district of Kiefhoek in Rotterdam designed by Dutch architect J.J.P. Oud in 1924-5, where blocks of townhouses forming large rectangular courts host commercial activities located at the rounded block ends.
This project, like others by the same architect, reflects the typical Dutch housing tradition and is characterized by an harmonious composition of internal and external spaces and volumes with white painted surfaces, where doors and window frames are standing out in Mondrian pure colours.
The terraced minimal houses for the Weissenhof district in Stuttgart built in 1927, which we have illustrated in the first article (download the DWG) are also a project by Oud.

The 1950-55 townhouses of Klampenborg in Copenhagen by A. Jacobsen and the 1956-58 townhouses of  Klein Driene district in Hengelo by J. Bakema and J.H. van den Broek , where the dwellings are aggregated into small groups associated with various types of buildings to form autonomous visual and functional units, including open spaces and services.

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Example of townhouses on the model of Lafayette Park project by L. Mies van der Rohe - Edificius made rendering

Townhouses famous projects: Lafayette Park by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe in Detroit

Ludwig Mies van der Rohe widely regarded as one of the pioneers of Modernist Architecture has been an influential architect in both Europe and the USA (since 1937). While striving to achieve simplicity, he is often associated with his quotation of the aphorisms:

Less is more

He began his career at the sudio of Peter Behrens as an apprentice to Walter Gropius and continued pioneering several projects culminating in two fundamental masterworks of modern architecture at the end of the 1920s: the German pavilion at the Barcelona International Exposition and the Tugendhat house in Brno, Czechoslovakia.
From 1930 to 1933 he directed the Bauhaus of Dessau. He then moved to Chicago in 1937 where he was commissioned his first US project, the Minerals and Metals Research Building followed by the Crown Hall, the design room "without internal pillars and free partition walls" and preceded by the famous Farnsworth House in Plano which encloses his famous open pavillion spaces.
In the USA, Mies designed a series of famous skyscrapers, including the Lake Shore Drive Apartments in Chicago and the Seagram Building in New York; while taking part in the Lafayette Park project in Detroit.

Lafayette Park: the exemplification project of modernity

Lafayette Park constitutes one of the top project examples of townhouses and the world's largest collection of buildings by Mies. It is the result of the collaborative effort of Mies van der Rohe and friend planner Ludwig Hilberseimer. The project's value goes beyond its shape: it is a social proposal to rebuild the American suburbs, trying to overcome the African-American slums.
This project is not as well known as several Mies projects of that decade, however, it has recently received greater recognition thanks to a growing awareness of its significant social role in terms of relationship with nature, reduction of traffic, variety of housing, attention to energy waste and urban renewal with an identity.
Lafayette Park is today listed in the National Register of Historic Places of America.

Lafayette Park town houses: the work description

The Lafayette Park project covers a large central area of Detroit occupied up to the '50s by a slum of rectangular blocks (according to the typical design of the American cities) arranged north / west - south/east and close to a complex system of high-speed roads from post-war times build to regulate an increasing traffic.

The main goal was to bring back the middle-class to the Motor City which had moved to safer and more peaceful life in the suburbs after the advent of the automobile.

terraced-houses-floor plan-Lafayette-Park-software-BIM-architecture-Edificius

Mies van der Rohe's townhouses - Lafayette Park - floor plan

Downlaod the project floor plan DWG

The neighborhood is set around the green park with few public facilities, an external road system and dead-end internal streets. A Shopping mall, garages, and mixed types of construction provide a sense of completeness and liveliness to the whole area without confering the idea of new town or garden city.

The Lafayette Park arrangement is the materialization of the principles as developed by Hilberseimer's research:

  1. construction of the city through the use of mixed building types (only high and low buildings)
  2. reduction of car traffic within the area
  3. wide presence of natural spaces
  4. pedestrian access from home to parks, schools and collective facilities without having to cross streets
  5. attention to the energy, considering the building orientation and the shadows from other houses.

Lafayette Park has 21-story towers complimented by two-story townhouses, parking buildings, shopping mall, public parks, public schools, club houses and swimming pools.

The new aspect introduced with the Lafayette Park complex is represented by the variety of housing types, including a  strongly geometrical structure where the residential setting, with its townhouses and courthouses configuration, confers a vibrant urban image to the place.


Mies van der Rohe's townhouses - Lafayette Park - isometric view

Download the DWG with the project isometric view

It is a complex system that alternates different types of housing for different residential needs: lower houses with patios and townhouses are placed directly in contact with nature and mainly intended for families with children, while the high-rise houses are intended for those with different needs.

A recurrent theme whithin the project is the relationship with nature. The buildings arrangement allows the green to surround the house and the outside world to enter the house, thus making nature becoming part of the architecture.

Lafayette Park as Mies van der Rohe's prototype of townhouses

On the ground floor the services are located in a central block, a choice that gives continuity to the house, like an open space.
There is therefore no interruption between the two open sides, improving the livability and lighting of the house and allowing the park to 'penetrate' into the house itself.

The composition of the residences is generated by homogeneous and recurring clusters of low houses with window facades, higher compared to the pedestrian paths, and placed parallel to the two sides of a large park hosting some primary services, kindergartens and elementary schools, besides some commercial facilities with the relative underground parking areas at the entrance streets of the district.


Mies van der Rohe' townhouses - Lafayette Park - perspective view

Download the DWG with the elevation view

The innovative aspects of Mies' building from an architectural point of view is represented by steel structures, absence of internal columns, fixed disposition of kitchen and bathroom and free configuration of the remaining spaces.

Fundamental to Mies’s design philosophy is a progressive work on the junction between column and slab, which will be recurrent in other of his works, where the vertical structure plays a central role in defining the spacial quality of the architecture.

Glass was at the time seen as a quintessentially modern material and in Mies' building glass replaces walls. On the example of the Neue Nationalgalerie in Berlin (1962-1968) and the Crown Hall at the IIT in Chicago (1950-56) the same scheme is adopted for the townhouses, where each glass walls is constituted by three sub-modules, with an horizontal crosspiece placed with ratio 1: 2.



Mies van der Rohe's townhouses - Lafayette Park - section views

Download the DWG with the project sections

The recent plans launched in many European countries (in particular France, England and Switzerland) for new energy-efficient installation systems, the need for in-depth analysis of urban density (as opposed to the phenomenon of dispersion), traffic control, variety of living in a sustainable and balanced relationship with nature, are strongly influenced by the positive sixty years experience of Lafayette park with special attention to the architectural research and more generally to the public.

Townhouse and BIM. How to design the staircase?

To conclude, a short video inspired by the townhouses of Lafayette Park in Detroit, showing the easy way of working with the BIM methodology, and specifically when designing a staircase.



In our follow-up articles, we'll complete our in-depth study on townhouses introducing:

  • Townhouses: the project of the Malagueira district by Alvaro Siza
  • Types of townhouses
  • Modern townhouses:
    • in Amsterdam:different and non-repetitive design solutions on equal lots
    • Water Villa's: built on several levels, placed side by side and realized through translation and rotation of the single units
  • Townhouses with patio and garden features
  • BIM examples of townhouses
  • Examples of townhouses with patios and gardens


Download the townhouses 3D BIM model (.edf Edificius file) in Lafayette Park

Click here to download Edificius, the architectural BIM design software