Metcalfe Architecture & Design

Metcalfe Architecture & Design

Philadelphia, PA


Whiting Forest of Dow Gardens

For generations, the Dow family enjoyed rich imaginative experiences in the forest surrounding their family home. In 2015, Metcalfe began work with the Herbert H. & Grace A. Dow Foundation to bring the joy of the Dow family forest to the community. Projects include a tree canopy walk, nature play area, visitor center, two pedestrian bridges, an art studio, an amphitheater, orchards, and a public program building. 

Metcalfe designed an expansive tree canopy walk that winds its way through the forest letting visitors experience varied forest ecologies from new and imaginative perspectives. At almost a quarter-mile long, the canopy walk passes through stands of white pine, leans out over a picturesque pond, and gives visitors a chance to lie back in netting and admire the surrounding spruce trees. 

Metcalfe also designed elements to the canopy walk that evoke a sense of daring and adventure in kids and parents alike.  A glass-floored overlook towers 40 feet over the orchard below and a small pod, accessed via a rope bridge, hugs and sways with the trees. 

The canopy walk was a close, collaborative effort between Metcalfe and The Herbert H. & Grace A. Dow Foundation.  Mike Whiting, president of the Foundation, grew up playing in the forest and was happy to share those memories, and his vision for the future of the forest, with Metcalfe. Together, Metcalfe and the client imagined a canopy walk where visitors of all ages and abilities experience the joy and wonder that Mike felt as a child in the forest. 

Making the canopy walk a reality required the collective efforts of the design and construction team. Metcalfe and the team examined the placement of each column support on the forest floor to limit damage to surrounding trees. Because most of the 2,720 tons of steel used to construct the canopy walk are visible from below, all connections and details were designed and thought out with care. 

The canopy walk was an immediate success upon opening to the public. In its first weekend, Whiting Forest of Dow Gardens saw an instant 300% annual increase in attendance from opening day in October 2018.

Winner of the 2020 American Architecture Award from the European Centre & The Chicago Athenaeum

Finalist, 2020 A+ Awards, Landscape & Planning, Public Parks from Architizer

Winner of the 2020 SDS/2 Solid Steel Competition, Grand Prize in Commercial Small Tonnage

Winner of the 2019 Bronze Award for Architectural Excellence at AIA’s Tri-State Conference

Winner of the 2019 Society of American Registered Architects National Design Award of Merit

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Status: Built
Location: Midland, MI, US