John R. Grimes, photographer. Portrait of Alfred Caldwell, Chicago. 1984 or before.

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Alfred Caldwell (1903–1998) was an American architect, landscape architect, author, and teacher whose work and thought combined the influences of Jens Jensen, Frank Lloyd Wright, and Ludwig Mies van der Rohe. Caldwell worked as an assistant to Jensen in the 1920s, taught with Mies at the Illinois Institute of Technology (IIT), Chicago, in the 1940s and 50s and also contributed landscape plans to Mies’s work in the United States such as the IIT campus and Lafayette Park, Detroit.

Caldwell was also a gifted draftsman and produced meticulously detailed aerial perspectives and other drawings for Ludwig Hilberseimer’s publications on urban planning. According to Caldwell,

There was no one who would, or could, have drawn such drawings – and so I did it. I made these drawings in Noblesse Oblige, in the same free spirit that I planted trees for Mies’ campus and in about the same years [about 1944 to 1959].1

Caldwell’s landscape work and Prairie-style buildings in Dubuque, Iowa, and Chicago from the 1930s owe much to the example of Frank Lloyd Wright, who earlier had invited Caldwell to join him at Taliesin. The structural clarity and rigour of his unbuilt Zoological Garden for Montréal (1954) reveal what Caldwell had learned from Mies. But it was with the farm property and buildings that Caldwell developed and built for himself in Bristol, Wisconsin, from 1948 through the 1970s, alone and with the help of students, that he achieved a synthesis of Mies and Wright.

The Alfred Caldwell Collection at the CCA comprises drawings, prints, photographs, and textual records, including unpublished writings that document the wide range of Caldwell’s interests and accomplishments.

1 Werner Blaser. Architecture and Nature: The Work of Alfred Caldwell. Basel: Birkhauser Verlag, 1984. p. 52.