Mid-Century Modern Michigan Service Stations by Alden B. Dow

Add to
Like
Comment
Share
In the late 1950’s and early 1960’s, automobile designs were characterized by head-turning tailfins and sleek lines. It’s not hard to imagine a ’59 Buick Electra pulling up to the gas pumps of the Bay Service Station on Ashman Street in Midland, designed by Alden B. Dow in 1960.

Perhaps it was those same tailfins that inspired the eye-catching lines of this futuristic structure.

The soaring roofline of the Bay Service Station is a hyperbolic paraboloid – a doubly-curved surface that has a convex form along one axis and a concave form along the other. The use of hyperbolic paraboloids as a form of construction was pioneered in the post-war era.

Mid-Century Modern
Michigan Service Stations 
by Alden B. Dow - Photo 1 of 4 - Innovation and inspiration were critical in the futuristic designs being produced in Michigan.

Innovation and inspiration were critical in the futuristic designs being produced in Michigan.

By being both lightweight and efficient, the form was used as a means of minimizing materials and increasing structural strength while also being capable of achieving impressive and seemingly complex designs.

For his design, Mr. Dow made use of Dow Chemical’s Styrofoam for the roof framing, covered with a thin concrete layer and waterproofed.

Mid-Century Modern
Michigan Service Stations 
by Alden B. Dow - Photo 2 of 4 - For his design, Mr. Dow made use of Dow Chemical’s Styrofoam for the roof framing, covered with a thin concrete layer and waterproofed.

For his design, Mr. Dow made use of Dow Chemical’s Styrofoam for the roof framing, covered with a thin concrete layer and waterproofed.

It was one of several gas stations he designed for the Bay Refining Company, a division of Dow Chemical. The building is still in use today as an auto detailing business, still servicing automobiles and, in that way, fulfilling its original function.

Mid-Century Modern
Michigan Service Stations 
by Alden B. Dow - Photo 3 of 4 - The Leonard Service Staion in Ann Arbor

The Leonard Service Staion in Ann Arbor



In addition to drawings and photographs of the Bay Service Station, the collection in the Alden B. Dow Archives also includes Mr. Dow’s drawings for the Crown Petroleum Service Station in Bay City, the Leonard Service Station in Ann Arbor, and a delightful color pencil sketch for a gas station/store/house that was drawn in the 1940’s but never built.

Mid-Century Modern
Michigan Service Stations 
by Alden B. Dow - Photo 4 of 4 - A delightful color pencil sketch for a gas station/store/house that was drawn in the 1940’s but never built.

A delightful color pencil sketch for a gas station/store/house that was drawn in the 1940’s but never built.

To reserve a tour of the Alden B. Dow Home and Studio or schedule research time in the archive please visit the website at www.abdow.org or call 1.989.839.2744


Get a Daily Dose of Design

Sign up for the Dwell Daily Newsletter and never miss our new features, photos, home tours, stories, and more.