Alden B. Dow, Architect

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    Dow Studio and Residence in construction showing use of special faceted concrete masonry unit designed by Alden Dow.
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    Photograph by Balthazar Korab.
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While I was an undergraduate architecture student at the University of Michigan, I worked as a draftsman-designer during the Summers of 1963-64 "up north" with the Midland architect, Alden B. Dow. It was very stimulating for me to work with an architect who had studied directly under the great Master Architect, Frank Lloyd Wright. The Dow offices were split between a downtown Midland production office and the original studio-residence (above) where the design work was done under Mr Dow's direction. After working for some time downtown, I finally needled them enough to let me work with Mr. Dow in the old studio.

I used to get up early in the morning and eagerly bicycle into the Dow estate, which was surrounded by thirteen acres of the most magnificent gardens, laid out and built for Mr. Dow's father by a Japanese Zen gardener, when the house-studio was built in the 1930's. Just being there in that wonderful setting was a profound learning experience. Some of my professors in Ann Arbor poo-pooed this experience as romanticism, but time has proved them wrong. Today I think that the"organic" architecture of Alden Dow's studio-residence was as good as (and perhaps better than) anything Wright did. At least, it is a testament to Wright's profound effect upon his students.

I found Mr. Dow to be a most caring teacher. Although I was the youngest draftsman on the staff, he allowed me, alone, to browse his vast collection of books that were located in his private studio. He loved his books, and when he found me in the library, would spend time showing me his favorite ones. One morning he told me I should read his entire collection of Lafcadio Hearn, the 19th Century Irish-American writer, who assimilated into Japanese culture. Those readings are still with me today, and although I have not yet visited Japan, Hearn gives me some perspective on my own life in the "other" cultures of the American Southwest.

Alden, Namaste!

© 2009, Dennis R. Holloway Architect