A self-taught, principled practitioner who was fired from multiple jobs and who resigned in protest from one when Mies van der Rohe left IIT, Alfred Caldwell’s mark on the campus and on Chicago is lasting and living. As a landscape designer who began his work under the legendary Jens Jensen, Caldwell was both artist and architect.
His commissions included public parks throughout the city, such as the Rookery in Lincoln Park Zoo and Promontory Point near Hyde Park, in addition to IIT’s campus. The plantings he chose to complement Mies’ buildings serve as a testament of the mutual esteem which the two men held for each other, even though his vision was never fully realized until the current Caldwell-inspired landscape plan put it into practice.
As Mies’ protégé, Caldwell was both student and colleague, being the first full-time faculty member hired by Mies to teach in the architecture department, even before he received the undergraduate degree Mies was to award to him. Continuing his formal studies for another three years, he received a master’s degree in city planning in 1948, at age 45. He taught from 1944 to 1959, returning to teach from 1981 until his death in 1988. Caldwell’s brilliance as an educator won him numerous teaching awards.
Caldwell was a steadfast advocate for the presence of greenspace within urban developments. Both in his role as an IIT faculty member and as an employee of the Chicago Department of City Planning, Caldwell influenced a generation of IIT-trained architects and planners.
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