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CALDWELL, Alfred

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CALDWELL, Alfred. (St. Louis, MO, May 26, 1903--Bristol, Wisconsin, 1998). Caldwell attended the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign but left before completing a degree. From 1926-1931 he worked for landscape architect Jens JENSEN in Chicago, Illinois, before beginning his own private practice which he maintained from 1931 to 1933. Caldwell’s landscape work and PRAIRIE ARCHITECTURE buildings in Dubuque, Iowa, and Chicago from the 1930s were inspired by Frank Lloyd Wright, who earlier had invited Caldwell to join him at Taliesin.
Caldwell (left) is pictured in the construction of rock gardens and fish ponds at Eagle Point Park. Photo courtesy: Telegraph Herald

From 1933 to 1936, Caldwell served as the superintendent of parks in Dubuque. During this time he oversaw the construction of EAGLE POINT PARK on a $300,000 budget. (1) He called upon his mentor, Jens Jensen, during this time for creative assistance.

At Eagle Point Park, Caldwell directed the construction of the shelter area which he called, "The City in a Garden." He was quoted as saying, "The gods were constructed out of form, wherefore beautifully built things become temples." Although not a student of Frank Lloyd Wright, the famous architect's influence with Prairie Style Architecture is easily seen in the emphasis on horizontal features; large, board overhands, use of natural materials and the careful effort to make structures blend with their surroundings. The buildings in the rock shelter area appear to have come from the area rather than having been constructed.

Caldwell was forced out of the project in the spring of 1936 before the dedication of the shelter area in 1937. Caldwell charged there were personality conflict with the park board members; the park board charged him with making unauthorized and unpopular park policy decisions. (2) One such decision led to the cutting down of ten Lombardy popular trees near the park's north exit to improve the view.

He left Dubuque in 1936 to accept the position of landscape designer for the Chicago Park District where he designed 550 areas including the Lincoln Park Zoo lily pond. (3) In 1944 Caldwell was hired by Mies van der Rohe to teach landscape architecture at the Illinois Institute of Technology (IIT) College of Architecture. Caldwell resigned in 1959 in a dispute with the college administration. He taught briefly in 1965 at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and then left to teach at the University of Southern California until 1973.

In 1980 Caldwell was awarded the Distinguished Educator Award from the Chicago chapter of the American Institute of Architects. He returned to teaching at IIT in 1981.

NOTE: For a fascinating interview/video of Alfred Caldwell see: http://cityofdubuque.granicus.com/MediaPlayer.php?view_id=3&clip_id=3004 produced by the City of Dubuque.

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Source:

1. Gallo, Matthew. "He Knows He's Good," Telegraph Herald, July 23, 1991, p. 3A

2. Ibid.

3. Ibid.