The residential high rise at 1300 East Lafayette Street in Detroit, Michigan, was one of several buildings constructed during a period of urban renewal in Detroit. Designed by the architectural firm of Birkerts & Straub of Birmingham, Michigan, the tower sits adjacent to Mies van Der Rohe’s Lafayette Park housing development. Construction began in 1961 and the tower opened in 1964. The thirty-story tower, which sits on the south side of East Lafayette Street, features unobstructed views of the Detroit River, downtown Detroit, and Windsor, Ontario. Two large “1300” signs, visible from considerable distances, are located on the roof. The building also features a two-story marble lobby and two floors of underground parking.
The tower was originally planned as the first of several development phases, which were to include a second tower as well as town homes. These were cancelled due to market conditions at the time.
Birkerts aimed to eliminate and simplify details by “permitting variations in spans and spacing of members without corresponding variations with section.” He noted that “concrete itself is not elegant, but shape can give it elegance.” He achieved this with the decision to ‘slide’ the two building halves into an offset position, thereby producing more corner apartments, and a feeling of added height and sophistication.
In the 1970s wealthy residents began to move out of the towers, and lower-income residents began to move in. The change in residents and other financial hardships resulted in the then-owner of the tower defaulting on the mortgage. The building then became the property of the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development until ownership of the building was converted to cooperative ownership in 1979. The transfer was somewhat unusual as no commercial developer was involved. Since then, 1300 Lafayette East Cooperative has been reestablished as a premier residence in the city of Detroit.
Joseph Messana Architectural Image Collection, University of Nebraska-Lincoln Libraries. 1300 Lafayette East Apartment, Detroit, Michigan. University of Nebraska-Lincoln, Lincoln.