Building with the Natural Environment:
Alden B. Dow Home and Studio


Alden B. Dow left an indelible mark on architecture throughout his career, and one of the most striking examples of his work is his own home and studio located in Midland, Michigan.  Dow originally studied engineering with plans to join the family business, Dow Chemical.  After three years in the engineering program at the University of Michigan, Dow changed his major to architecture and went on to graduate with a degree in Architecture from Columbia University in 1931 (Dow also married that same year). Dow and his bride, Vada, spent the summer of 1933 in Spring Green Wisconsin, apprenticing under the renowned Frank Lloyd Wright at his Taliesin studio.  Upon returning to Midland, Dow immediately started designing his home and studio.

The influence of Wright is apparent in Dow’s home and studio, from the graphic motifs to the integration of the building with the natural environment.  Dow described his own philosophy of design as “architecture is more than the front face of the building. It is the location of the building. It is the plan of the building. It is the construction of the building. It is the heating and cooling of the building. It is the furnishing of the building. It is the landscaping of the building. It is, in its entirety, the manifestation of wholesome living.”  Dow also developed his own building materials for the project, creating an innovative modular block made of cinder – a waste by-product of industrial processes – and utilized the blocks throughout the home and studio.

Construction began with the studio in 1934 and evolved over the next several years to incorporate an additional drafting room and the famous “floating conference room”, so noted due to its elevation 18 inches below the surface of the surrounding pond.  Construction of the adjoining home was completed in 1941.

The Alden B Dow Home and Studio is a “must-see” in Mid-Michigan, along with the extraordinary 110-acre Dow Gardens. The impressive grounds and architecture exemplify Alden B. Dow’s belief that “…gardens never end and buildings never begin.”

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MAF held its July Board of Directors meeting in the Alden Dow House’s Dining Room.