Running through the wooded property surrounding his family home on Eastman Avenue, now known as Whiting Forest, Henry was constantly awed by the beauty of nature and how masterfully his great-uncle had created structures that were extensions of nature. "Alden influenced me in so many ways. His own home and studio, in particular the floating conference room, is the most beautiful space I have ever experienced. I remain in awe of it. What young person could not love a building with so many levels, corners and angles, not to mention a theater and scale trains running through it?" Whiting reflected.
It will be the new Visitor Center for the Whiting Forest. Whiting left Midland to attend high school at the Cranbrook Academy, where he experienced the beauty and all-encompassing vision of another great architect, Eliel Saarinen. With a focus on art, architecture, sculpture and nature, Cranbrook was an extension of his upbringing in Midland. "I originally wanted to attend Cranbrook, which both of my parents had attended, to be closer to my paternal grandparents. When I first went there, it looked so old fashioned to me when compared to Alden’s architecture, but gradually I came to appreciate the beauty and organic coherence of its design. The whole campus is a piece of art in and of itself. The totality of Cranbrook’s beauty would impact me and reinforce all of the ideas that were created by my Uncle Alden in Midland. The fact that it is architecturally perhaps the most famous high school in the country, and one of the epicenters of Mid-Century Modern design, can only be attributed to fate or destiny for me."
These combined experiences encouraged Whiting to study the relationship of nature and structure together and took him to the University of Wisconsin-Madison to study landscape architecture. In his second semester at Wisconsin, Whiting took a course in the work of Frank Lloyd Wright. With such close proximity to Frank Lloyd Wright's home Taliesin, in Spring Green, Whiting began his in-depth study of Wright's architecture, an interest which was strongly encouraged by his great-uncle and enhanced by their lengthy conversations back in Midland. "Incredible conversations with Alden began when I was at Cranbrook and we talked about many topics including the Dow Gardens, architectural publication and design. Once I began researching Mr. Wright, our conversation would center on the time that Alden and Vada spent as Charter Members of the Taliesin Fellowship in 1933 and Wright’s work and influence."
After university, Whiting moved to Idaho to help with the design and construction of the retirement house that his parents were building in Sun Valley. Almost immediately, he discovered the only work by Frank Lloyd Wright in Idaho, the Archie B. Teater Studio, which he purchased five years later and began the first in a series of extensive renovations.
The structure is perched about 300 feet above the Snake River between the towns of Bliss and Hagerman. It is a dynamic and soaring combination of wood, glass, concrete and stone. The elaborate one-room structure is shaped like a parallelogram that follows a diamond grid pattern. It is believed to be the only studio Wright designed other than his own.
Whiting has devoted his life to the preservation of this incredible structure and the appreciation of Wright’s work. His loving care of the Teater Studio, which has been his home for the last 35 years, has initiated great friendships with many renowned architects like Bart Prince, E. Fay Jones and John Lautner. His shared passion for great design with these architects, in addition to his close relationship with Dow, have placed him uniquely in the world of Mid-Century Modern architecture.
With extensive knowledge of both Mid-Century architecture and Wright’s work, Whiting has written two books, At Nature's Edge: Frank Lloyd Wright's Artist Studio and Teater’s Knoll: Frank Lloyd Wright’s Idaho Legacy along with numerous articles about the studio. Whiting lectures across the United States on what it is like to live in Mid-Century Modern design and speaks on the significance and importance of preserving this uniquely American design movement.
Whiting is returning home to Midland to share his unique journey in a public lecture titled "Living Mid-Century Modernism: Growing Up in Midland and Beyond" The lecture is sponsored by Mid-Century Modern Midland and will be held on April 25th at 7pm, at The Grace A. Dow Memorial Library Auditorium and is open to the public. Admission is free.
"Though Alden was the patriarch and leader of the community of Midland in the 1960’s and 1970’s, his influence was felt throughout the community, it was fascinating to watch how this influence rubbed off on other individuals, particularly architects and artists. His office spawned many other architects in the community, whose work was also beautiful and compatible with his own." Commented Whiting on Midland’s Mid-Century Modern architectural heritage.
"Being away from Midland for most of my adult life gives me perspective that many in the community might not have. I appreciate Midland as a unique, one of a kind town. I often compare it with Columbus, Indiana, which is very similar, and justly world-famous for its architecture. But Midland is different in an important way: whereas Columbus has had many different, famous architects from all over the world working in its community, resulting in a tremendous variety of buildings, they are not necessarily compatible or harmonious. Midland, with its 130 Alden Dow buildings and a nearly equal number of Mid-Century Modern buildings by architects, most of whom worked in his office, has a harmony and cohesion which is completely different, and to my eye, much more appealing as a whole. This quality is easy to take for granted when living with it every day. I hope to shine light on this uniqueness in my talk, and to pay a debt of gratitude, for my life would not have been the same without growing up in Midland."
For more information about the lecture, visit the Mid-Century Modern Midland website at midcenturymidland.org or call (989) 839-2744.
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