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Video: Alden Dow's Heath House - Midland, MI

Posted: Wed Apr 17, 2019 11:09 am
by DavidC

Posted: Wed Apr 17, 2019 11:33 am
by SDR
Bravo, Travis Fader: a well-written narrative, delivered in complete sentences and with information on, and insight into, the specifics of Dow's work.

I had not appreciated that the Uniblock was a diagonal unit in plan, permitting the appearance (for better or worse) of stack bond but with the
structural advantage of running bond. The video footage seems to reveal blocks of different sizes---assuming that the bevel dimension is a constant ?


Posted: Wed Apr 17, 2019 12:00 pm
by Roderick Grant
It is a very nice house. A plan is published in Sidney K. Robinson's book, page 61. If I had my way with this house, I would paint all the non-block walls anything other than white. I would even be tempted to paint the blocks something softer than the blank white they are.

SDR, the difference in size of blocks affects only the vertical dimension by dividing it in half. The quartered blocks are only subdivided on the surface, and are actually standard blocks. Again referring to Robinson's book, on page 30 is an illustration of all the block variations, which in addition to the standard arrangement allow for inevitable details, such as non-orthogonal corners. There seems to be no rebar, but perhaps Dow's nephew, Henry Whiting, could comment on that aspect.

Posted: Wed Apr 17, 2019 12:37 pm
by HenryWhiting
Roderick, I understand your comment about the white color (an influence of the International Style at the time), but in person it doesn't look as severe as in photographs, due to the shadows created by the uniform chamfered corners. Some of the plaster walls in this house are painted bright colors, as was Dow's wont -- especially in his own house. The Unit Blocks come in 16 different sizes (half blocks, quarter blocks, and corner blocks) in order to accommodate all circumstances. The block size affects both the vertical and horizontal dimension. They have a void spaces in the middle into which rebar is inserted vertically, then filled with mortar.

I have long said that if I lived in Midland, the Heath house would be my first choice. It is a wonderful house, on five different levels (here Dow clearly breaks with Wright), creating a great variety of spatial configurations. Windows, skylights and clerestories bring in the richness of natural daylighting.

Posted: Wed Apr 17, 2019 1:22 pm
by SDR
I don't have the Robinson book---but it would be wonderful to see section drawings of this house, to understand fully the spacial arrangements.


Posted: Thu Apr 18, 2019 11:00 am
by Roderick Grant
The book has only the plan, no sections or elevations. With the plan and views of the exterior, one should be able to surmise aspects of the interior volumes. It is a more complex arrangement than it might seem, given its diminutive size.

Posted: Thu Apr 18, 2019 8:37 pm
by JChoate
This house is a thorough work of art.
I'm still processing the fact that it was built in 1934 -- 3 years before the Jacobs house !?
I'm inclined to agree with Roderick's desire to tweak the bright white, (maybe entertaining SDR's sand color on the original Guggenheim, and perhaps I'd tweak the Heath's fire engine red trim to be more Cherokee-ish.) But, color is a thing in the eye of the beholder. Maybe I've been studying Wrightdom too long.
I love those paired vertical mullions.
Don't love the latter day baby blue, sculpted carpet.
In the first & last few seconds of the video we get a drone glimpse of an irregular quadrilateral detached garage.

Posted: Fri Apr 19, 2019 12:15 pm
by Roderick Grant
Travis Fader makes other real estate commentators sound like amateurs. Another house (with a Dow connection) that he describes in detail is the 5400 sf MCM Defoe House by Dow associate Glenn "Red" Beach at 2323 Nurmi Drive in Bay City, MI, a spectacular design as relevant today as half a century ago.

Posted: Fri Apr 19, 2019 12:24 pm
by DavidC