a tribute to bill caudill

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8 x 8 booklet describing the life of Bill Caudill.


  • A TRIBUTE Bill Caudill , with fellow professor John M. Rowlett , founded a firm in 1946 that was to grow into CRS Group, now CRS/Sirrine , Inc . , an international architecture , engineering, project management , and construction firm. He gained national prominence for his contributions to design , research , practice, and education .

    A presentation of Bill Caudill's life and major accomplishments follows.

  • THE PERSON He was a leader of people - caring and deter-mined to educate and nurture to the fullest the capabilities of those working with him. Thus the team concept, without pretentious posturing and the prima donna image; thus the warmth and strength which dominated his professional and personal life . Some people believe that he was an ordinary person who dared to think and do things that were out of the ordinary. It is plain that he had professional audacity while remain-ing personally unpretentious. And becaus~ he gave the impression of being a self-mockmg, ordinary person while succeeding as a man and as an architect, he became a role model for many younger architects.

    He believed that people were more important than buildings - that architecture is for people to enjoy; that a good building properly designed to human needs helps the learner to learn , the sick to recover, the worker to work, the shopper to shop; that great buildings stretch human potential through inspiration.

    He believed that composing space and form artistically into meaningful architecture requires

    great skill. He had great compositional skills. He loved diversity, different ideas, different cul-tures , different conditions - and he had the capacity to adapt to change .

    He was a theoretical and practical man . His books, especially Architecture and You, ordered and systematized knowledge for lay persons to appreciate architecture. His research in energy efficiency and environmental controls sought practical applications for revised theories . ''There must be a balance between practice and theory. All theory and no practice won't do. All practice without theoretical reasoning is worse'' .

    He was a great reductionist . He could reduce complex information to simple terms . He could clarify and simplify an issue and tackle it specifi-cially. He could get right to the heart of a prob-lem and identify a concept as the solution -which established him as a conceptual thinker. He believed in looking forward- seldom look-ing back - measuring ideas in terms of the future - planning for, rather than reacting to change.

  • THE EARLY YEARS Bill's parents were Walter W. Caudill ( 1880-1965) and Josephine Moores Caudill (1890-1974). He was born in Hobart, Oklahoma. "My Dad and his dad before him had grocery stores./ worked in grocery stores on Saturdays and summers while in junior high school, high school, and part of my college days. I was sick of the grocery business . Yet our first offices in Austin and in College Sta-tion were over grocery stores(!)" - W.W.C.

    Bill 's mother Josephine (later Kaneski) was a manager and buyer for a women's hat department in an Oklahoma City store for many years and was a major influence on Bill's character and attitudes toward people and the world of work.

    Bill had the photo on the far left tacked to his bulletin board with the question: " Which is the real Bill Caudill?" The answer is: the one on the far right with the beanie is Bill.

    Caudill attended Central High School in Okla-homa City and played trombone in the marching band . He was elected president of his senior class in 1932 .

    At Oklahoma State University he was the young man named as Outstanding Graduate in 1937 .

    Bill won a scholarship in 1938 and graduated from MIT with a Masters Degree in Architecture. At MIT, Caudill and fellow student Lois Worley col-laborated and won a national design competition .

  • Bill served two years in the Navy (1944-1945) as a carpenter' s mate in the Pacific . Color-blindness and a speech impediment kept him out of the Offi-cers ' Candidate School.

    Bill met Edith Woodman of Elk City, Oklahoma while attending Oklahoma State University. They were married in 1939 while Caudill was teaching design at Texas A&M University. They had two children: Susan and Bill, Jr.

    This photo recorded the first day at work: March 1, 1946. The firm of Caudill and Rowlett at Austin, Texas soon moved to College Station so both partners could teach full-time and practice part-time.

  • Bill was working for the university architect at Oklahoma State University when he first met Aleen Plumer Harrison of Perry, Oklahoma who was attending school there. In 1974, both having been widowed, they married.

    Initially Bill leamedJo fly the firm's small plane to service clients in Texas cities not easily reached from Colle,ge Station through commer-cial airlines at tha1 time, i.e. San Angelo, Tyler, Mesquite . Later he bought his own plane and found flying a relaxing hobby. He flew for more

    I than 25 years and sold his last airplane only three years ago. ''I've sold the duck . .. what a wonderful bird. Just like having two airplanes at once - a sea plane and a land plane. . .

    "Flying an amphibian is like practicing architec-ture. We architects are amphibians. We practice on the beach where the world of science and engineering overlaps with the world of arts and humanities . Our danger lies in becoming too ob-sessed with only one world, forgetting how to operate in the others. But so much for philoso-phy. Back to flying.

    "Flying has been important to me . It's fed my ego. Offered relaxation. Gave me a social life outside of my profession. Some of the nicest and most interesting people fly. Provided unusual vacations for my family ; however, my young son (who thought the Caudills were underprivi-leged) once said, 'Dad, why can't we go on va-cations in cars like other people?' " W.W.C. Dec. 1979 TIB

  • DIFFERENT PERCEPTIONS Many people remember his creative leadership, his astuteness , his ability as a designer, as an architect . But most people who knew him well remember his accessibility , his humanity, his good humor, his good will . He was an incredibly warm and human person, not a cold and distant guru . While each person who sketched him per-ceived him differently, each knew that his sketch would be well received .

  • CREATIVE ARCJIITECT Caudill referred to himself as a " hard-nosed" practitioner, yet he' was known as an innovator in design - both as a process and a product.

    He pioneered a poogramming method and the "squatters" techl}ique - both of which intended to solve communication problems .

    He was known as a creative school designer in the 1950's and the 1960's. He was often asked by organizations and publications to project new hypothetical school models into the future:

    1954 " New Schools , Economy Too" , LIFE

    1957 "A School for Tomorrow", The School Executive

    1957 " Schools of the Future", a research pro-ject sponsored by the Douglas Fir Ply-wood Association

    1958 "Johnny Goes to High School", Systems for Educators

    1959 "The Case of the Busted Box", New Schools for New Education, Educational Facilities Laboratory

    1964 " In Education , the Most Important Num-ber is One'', American Association of School Administrators (Revised below)

    1977 From Infancy to Infinity, published jointly by CRS and Herman Miller, Inc.

  • The "Squatters"

    "The CRS squatters was invented to solve a communication problem .

    "It came early. We were working on our first school project - two elementary schools for Blackwell, Oklahoma, 525 miles away from our office over the grocery store in College Station, Texas . We were having a most difficult time get-ting the preliminary plans approved. It seemed that we made at least four round trips trying to get the board to say "yes". It was always "no". Patience, enthusiasm, and money were running short. Finally I said (at least /' ll take credit for it) to Wallie Scott, " Wallie, we are going to lose our shirts if we don't do something quick . How about you and me loading the drafting boards in your car (my car was so old it wouldn't stand the trip), driving to Blackwell, and squatting like Steinbeck's Okies in the board room until we get the damn plans approved?" So we did. The main thing that happened was this: In trying to find a way to lick the distance problem, we happened upon a truth that should have lbeen obvious to us all the time - the client/users want to get into the act of planning, and when they do there is no reason to get approval because then that is automatic. The communication problem is solved." W.W.C. Architecture by Team

    Programming In 1950 Caudill wrote in the first section of a report, "Programming School Building Needs" : "What is programming? It is simply finding out the problem . You cannot solve a problem unless you know what it is . In one meaning architecture design is solving problems. Programming is de-termining them. " With this statement Caudill es-tablished the theory of programming at CRS. He was later to develop the "analysis card" tech-nique as a means of communication between the client and the architect - a useful technique in both programming and design .

  • First Schools

    The Blackwell schools were published in an article in Colliers magazine in 1950 written by a young architectural editor, Walter McQuade (who is now a member of the Board of Editors for Fortune magazine). For the next 20 years Caudill would be known as a school architect with design commissions for schools, colleges, and universities- in the 1950's in Oklahoma and Texas and in the 1960's nationally and inter-nationally, in 26 states and 8 foreign countries . In 1955 Edward R. Murrow interviewed him on "See