The Architect was born a century ago at the confluence of three rivers, where nature carved a perfect spot for trout. “Not so good for humans, though,” because the land was hard and isolated. Four distinct trails led Native Americans to and from the fresh water, but only a handful of people ever put down roots.
His family left quickly, too, following his physician father to Spokane, where a hospital had been built for homeless patients and orphan children. The building was a Beaux Arts castle, with tall ceilings and big windows that invited light and air into lives that had known little of either. “In it I saw the gift that order can bring to chaos,” he said.
He and his young wife moved to Baltimore in 1952, excited by the energy of the city and the opportunity to shape spaces of healing and hope, and over the next half century he designed psychiatry units, radiation clinics, cardiology suites, and children’s surgery centers for three Baltimore hospitals. In every one he wondered, “Will the space I draw help people feel better?” and decisions big and small were rooted in this vision: room size, window placement, even paint color.
From our first meeting, the Architect called me Boss. “Good morning, Boss,” he’d say as he walked into church, or “That was a humdinger, Boss,” after a service that particularly moved him. When his wife of 60 years was failing, he would whisper in her ear, “The Boss has come to pray with us.”
One day I asked him about the title he had given me. He said, “The best architects figure out that they are servants—to their clients, certainly, but more than that, to the spirit of an organization and to the work their physical structures are meant to enable and support. We are paid to solve problems, and the Spirit will reveal the most elegant solution, I believe, if we pay close attention.” He grew quiet, and then looked up from his soup. “What I’m sure of, after a long life, is that adversity invites us to rise. All I’m building now is a way to heaven, Boss, so I am bringing my design questions to you.”
The Architect rose himself, on a summer day two years ago. A week before that, he said he was looking forward to his new address. “It’s tough for so many folks in Baltimore, so I know Jesus spends a lot of time here,” he told me. “I’m hoping he feels like an old friend.”
Rev. David J. Ware is Rector of the Church of the Redeemer