The Tour Day partnership between The Alden B. Dow Home and Studio and Docomomo US is an easy one to understand. But first, Docomomo — what an odd word, right? It stands for the DOcumentation and COnservation of buildings, sites and neighborhoods of the MOdern MOvement. DO CO MO MO. Docomomo US is an organization dedicated to the preservation of modern architecture, landscape and design. Likewise, one of the missions of the Alden B. Dow Home and Studio is to support and present educational programs that promote the importance of modern design and its preservation.
One of the many educational programs Docomomo promotes is Tour Day. It is an annual celebration devoted to the appreciation of modern architecture across the United States. Tours and events focused on architecture and design of the Modern Movement are hosted by Docomomo US chapters, partners, and leading voices in preservation.
This year’s thematic focus is Travel & Leisure taking place on October 9, 2021. Whether hitting the road by car or jetting off to exotic locations, modern ideals and aesthetics can be found just about everywhere you look. With the travel industry heavily impacted because of the pandemic, this is also an opportunity to help a struggling sector of the economy while exploring some of the great architecture, sites, and stories of our modern travel heritage. Some of the other tour options that day will include a walking tour of Palm Springs, California, a tour of the Pirelli Building in New Haven, Connecticut, and a walking tour of West Waikiki, Hawaii.
The Alden B. Dow Home and Studio has long been a destination for admirers of mid-20th century architecture and design. Mid-Century Modern (MCM) architectural design came to Midland through its native son, Alden B. Dow, FAIA. With his iconic 1934 Home and Studio, he established a design legacy that was followed by architects attracted to the area by his work. His innovative, functional and dynamic work inspired architects like Francis Warner, Jackson Hallett, Glenn Beach, Robert Schwartz, and others, to create modern structures that are integrated into the community. Midland has one of the largest collections of MCM-designed structures in the country.
In a non-pandemic year, almost 20,000 visitors from around the country make the trek to Midland to tour the iconic structure. Also, in a non-pandemic year, Autumn Reflections, an annual event celebrating Dow’s local architecture would be scheduled for the first weekend in October. These two factors and some innovating tinkering with the format to keep visitors and docents safer in these COVID-times, made the theme and partnering with Docomomo for Tour Day 2021 a perfect fit.
“After having to cancel Autumn Reflections last October, we wanted to offer a program both for our local members and for the broader community that highlights Midland’s Mid-Century tradition,” said Craig McDonald, Director of the Alden B. Dow Home and Studio. Typically Autumn Reflections would include opportunities to tour the interiors of three local homes designed by Alden B. Dow, as well as expanded tours of the Home and Studio. “Given the uncertainty of the lingering COVID-19 situation, we felt this was just not the time to have large groups of people indoors,” explained McDonald. Instead, in addition to the Expanded Tours of the Home and Studio, with limited registration, three new walking tours are being offered so people interested in design can experience a part of the Midland’s MCM heritage and stay safe at the same time. “We’ve had to think differently because of the pandemic and some new and exciting options have arisen because of that,” stated McDonald. Two docent-led walking tours each approximately 2 miles long and lasting about 2 hours have been designed. Portable sound systems will be provided for participants to use for both tours. Guests are encouraged to bring their own earphones, although some will be provided for those without them. Also, to highlight the concentration of structures and the diversity of designers, yard signs identifying a structure as Mid-Century Modern, and naming the designer or builder will be placed in the lawns of each of the structures involved in one of the walking tours.
One of the walking tours will focus on Alden B. Dow’s early career, the Dow family homes that border the gardens, and Dow family history. This docent-led tour will begin at the exterior of the iconic Home and Studio, which will be used to illustrate Dow’s design detail and to reinforce the concepts and ideas of his work. The tour will proceed down Main Street, past the Herbert and Grace Dow Family home where Alden grew up, and Dow Gardens where he and his siblings played. The tour will continue passing some of Dow’s earliest work and feature the exteriors of the structures he designed along Revere, West Park, Eastman Road and St. Andrews. The tour will reinforce his talent for designing individual environments for a broad range of clients. It will also examine the use of materials and his career-long passion for developing and using innovative products.
A second walking tour features one of the premier MCM neighborhoods in Midland; the Valley Drive and Applewood Road area. The development of these neighborhoods coincided with the global expansion of The Dow Chemical between 1956 to 1968. Presented by Mid-Century Modern Midland (MCMM), a project of the Dow Home and Studio, this option will demonstrate the quality and the diversity of Mid-Century design in Midland. Carol Neff, coordinator for MCMM explained, “One of the big surprises to come from our volunteer-scanning project was the number of people involved in Midland’s MCM tradition. Midlanders are familiar with Mr. Dow, and some might recognize the names of Red Warner, Jackson Hallett, and Robert Schwartz, but we have documented 39 designers with at least one structure in Midland.” This tour will help differentiate the various architects who contributed to the overall architectural heritage and introduce participants to names they might not recognize. The two-mile long walk starting from Post Street and covering the Valley and Applewood neighborhood includes 39 structures and the work of 17 different architects and designers.
A third walking tour option showcases the Andre and James neighborhood which was also developed in the late 1950s into the 1960s. This Mid-Century Modern rich area features the work of 10 different architects and designers for 29 homes located on Cruz, Willard, James and Andre streets. There is no cost for this opportunity, it is self-guided and participants are encouraged to download and use the recently updated MCMM app. For those who would prefer to be off the grid for a little bit and not use an app, the MCMM yard signs will be in place and will identify the designer or builder of each structure. Part two of this article will detail how to use the app to learn more about these homes and the designer and builders who created them.
For more information visit www.abdow.org or call 989.839.2744.