I was fortunate to grow up in a home designed by my uncle, Richard Caldwell. As a child, I used to sit in different places around the house and see patterns emerge from the balanced design, shapes I didn’t expect to see through my young eyes. I would see geometries angle in through the foyer and rise up along the ceiling, or appear from the shadows at the living room corners and back porch, or materialize in the exposed beams and white brick—patterns within the patterns of the design, all there to be discovered.
Through such reveries and through hearing Richard talk about his work, I absorbed his relentless devotion to excellence, and, at the same time, his unbounded freedom about where and when he might extract some principle of beauty or elegance or proportion, or, beyond his architecture, some quality of human nature that might reveal a piece of wisdom about who we are in the universe—often sacrificing a piece of himself to acquire that bit of wisdom. He churns through even the most esoteric fodder to catch a glimpse of the ultimate truth or even a molecule of enlightenment, all to raise his sense of elegance in architecture and in being human.
I think, though, his greatest influence on me is his will to articulate his vision down to the smallest detail, to specify the particulars so that clarity emerges long before the work. Like a farmer working the soil long before planting, long before the season, he invests himself in connecting the elements of his inspiration until he knows the whole will bear fruit of the spirit. Without reservation, he pushes down through elemental designs to refine—deep into the details—the grand possibilities of a marvelous experience by the building’s inhabitants.
We can see his efforts and his exploratory philosophy in his working drawings from architecture, which are hand done in pen and ink. We can see it in the contours of his pen sketches of Japanese buildings that he drew one summer on a college break, riding a motorcycle across Japan, his notebook and pens in his knapsack. Or in his drawings of faces, people whose life-long lessons he saw playing out in light patterns that he carefully defined with his pen.
Looking through his curious eyes, I learned to see Life as endlessly fascinating, hiding secrets and treasures of the best in our humanity, of what it means to be an adventurous human being.