Whiting Forest of Dow Gardens / Metcalfe

Whiting Forest of Dow Gardens / Metcalfe

© Nic Lehoux © Nic Lehoux © Nic Lehoux © Nic Lehoux + 24

  • Architects: Metcalfe
  • Area Area of this architecture project Area: 218530.0 m2
  • Year Completion year of this architecture project Year: 2018
  • Photographs Photographs: Nic Lehoux
  • Manufacturers Brands with products used in this architecture project
    Manufacturers: InCord, Ipe, Jakob, Ohio Gratings, On-Grip, Swaged Lite
  • Structural Engineers

  • Landscape Architects

    Jonathan Alderson
  • MEP Engineers

    MacMillan Assoc.
  • Civil Engineers

    Axiom Consulting
  • General Contractors

    Three Rivers Corporation
  • Owner’s Representation

    Fred Eddy
  • Steel

    Magnum Construction
  • Carpentry

    Sugar Construction
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© Nic Lehoux
© Nic Lehoux

Text description provided by the architects. Whiting Forest of Dow Gardens is the latest nature-play project designed by Philadelphia-based Metcalfe. Located in Midland, Michigan, the installation opened in October 2018 as an experience-oriented complement to the Dow Gardens complex, the landmark public gardens established in 1899 by Herbert H. Dow.

© Nic Lehoux
© Nic Lehoux

Comprising a dynamic network of bridges, paths, and tree canopy walkways that are populated with engaging gathering points and interactive features, Metcalfe’s design offers a close-up, four-season experience of the 54-acre forest of native northern pine from a variety of unexpected vantage points. On the journey through the woods, visitors encounter a series of “right-brained” experiences involving a progression of open fields and dark forests. People are not constrained to staying on trails; the more they wander, the closer they get to nature and opportunities for introspection.

© Nic Lehoux
© Nic Lehoux
Site plan
Site plan
© Nic Lehoux
© Nic Lehoux

The 1,400-foot-long tree canopy walk—the longest in the country—is the central attraction of the forest. With three “arms” winding over a pond and apple orchards and through the forest, the canopy walk provides a one-of-a-kind vantage point from 40 feet above the ground as it draws visitors through the woodland. Along the walk, expansive cargo nets stretched between trees create places for visitors to walk, jump and sprawl safely while over the forest floor, while walk-in slatted-wood pavilions in abstracted forms of nests and pods offer shelter and act as settings for reflection, discussion, and observation.

© Nic Lehoux
© Nic Lehoux

Other features on the site include a new 13,600-square-foot playground with a sandy beach, flowing water, and child-scaled play structures; Visitor Center, a restored and repurposed midcentury residence by architect Alden B. Dow; Whiting Forest Café; amphitheater; and Forest Classroom, a facility for hosting workshops, seminars, programs and 2 steel bridges.

© Nic Lehoux
© Nic Lehoux

This active, participatory environment is an architectural antidote to the over-reliance on virtual, screen-centric life that people today typically experience. In a world of technology that sometimes makes people more divided, Metcalfe works to design places that bring communities together outdoors and in nature for purposeful interaction. Whiting Forest of Dow Gardens is a prime example of that philosophy.

© Nic Lehoux
© Nic Lehoux

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Project location

Address: Midland, Míchigan, United States

Location to be used only as a reference. It could indicate city/country but not exact address.
About this office
Cite: "Whiting Forest of Dow Gardens / Metcalfe" 28 Jan 2019. ArchDaily. Accessed . <> ISSN 0719-8884

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