315 Post St.
Midland Michigan 48640United States
Architect Alden Dow's 1930s home is now a studio, school and shrine to midcentury American design, integrating nature and structure.
Michigan architect and Frank Lloyd Wright protege Alden Dow built hundreds of homes, churches and civic buildings throughout his home state. A scion of the Dow Chemical Company, Dow chose architecture over chemistry. Dow, like Wright, integrated function and nature in design to create creative, functional dwellings that meld with their surroundings. In Midland, Michigan, Dow's Home and Studio is now a National Historic Landmark, open daily for guided tours and education. Set in the 110-acre Dow Gardens, the low-slung, somewhat multileveled home is built of white blocks created from Dow chemical residue. Throughout the 20,000-square-foot home, Dow creates visual excitement through raised rooflines, surprising bursts of color and soaring windows that bring nature inside. Though the sleek, wood-beamed interior is neutrally decorated, Dow loved to inject color to match his surroundings. Outside, the white exterior blends with clouds, flowers and birch trees. Inside, red trim picks up a robin, a tulip or a geranium outside. A fan of puzzles, games and surprises, Dow surprised visitors through slightly inclined steps, a distant balcony or a hidden staircase. Several rooms hover over water, creating the sensation of suspension in nature. The 90-minute tour ends with a walk on white blocks identical to the exterior, this time placed in the pond surrounding the house. In midwater, visitors become a part of Dow's creation, enveloped by nature. A bird tweets, wisteria wafts in the air, a breeze ruffles the pond. (For Dow, "Gardens never end, and buildings never begin.") Tours are $12. Because of its uneven, tricky layout, the home is not handicapped accessible nor is it suitable for children.