a botanical garden in midland, michigan is now home to the longest tree canopy walk in the united states. the project, which opened in october 2018, comprises a network of bridges, paths, and tree canopy walkways that are populated with engaging gathering points and interactive features — including a series of treehouse-like structures that create a sense of discovery for children and adults alike.
all images by nic lehoux
designed by metcalfe, a philadelphia-based multi-disciplinary practice, the installation complements the existing dow gardens complex — the botanical garden and arboretum established in 1899 by herbert h. dow. the scheme offers an intimate experience of the 54-acre pine forest, with visitors given the freedom to wander and explore independently. the site also includes a new playground, apple orchard, bridges, amphitheater, visitor center, café, and forest classroom.
view looking toward orchard overlook
the centerpiece of the project is the 1,400-foot-long (427m) tree canopy walk — the longest in the country — which offers views from 40 feet (12m) above the ground. meanwhile, expansive cargo nets stretched between trees create places for visitors to walk, jump and sprawl safely while suspended 25 feet (7.6m) over the forest floor. elsewhere, walk-in slatted-wood pavilions in abstracted forms of nests and pods offer shelter and act as settings for reflection, discussion, and observation.
the orchard arm overlook of the canopy walk reaches its highest elevation of 40 feet (12.2 meters)
‘this active, participatory environment is an architectural antidote to the over-reliance on virtual, screen-centric life that people today typically experience,’ explains alan metcalfe, principal of metcalfe. ‘in a world of technology that sometimes makes us more divided, we work to design places that bring people together outdoors and in nature for purposeful interaction. whiting forest of dow gardens is a great example of that philosophy.’
a new playground is located below the canopy walk
the view from ground level
an upper level and roof structure engage with the landscape
this structure is topped with a bright red roof
pod-like structures create a sense of discovery for both children and adults
this sheltered pavilion is elevated 30 feet (9.1 meters) in the air and looks out over a pond
the structure becomes softly illuminated at dusk
integrated lighting highlights the path
a midcentury modern house by alden b. dow has been restored and repurposed
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