CAITLIN KELLEY ARCHITECT
MArch AIA NCARB
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I was born and raised on a citrus ranch in Southern California and was fortunate to experience a lot of freedom in my youth. The house I grew up in was a California Adobe sitting on a hill overlooking a vast expanse of orange and grapefruit orchards, and the smell of the citrus blossoms in the spring still lingers in my memories. My grandparents built this house. They carefully considered the design to provide warmth in the winter and cool in the summer. The sleeping rooms were oriented to pick up the beautiful breezes, which blew down the canyon. My grandparents even made the adobe bricks on-site from the land. They implemented radiant heating in the floors, and stepping onto the warm bathroom tiles in the winter made getting up for school always easier! These sustainable practices imprinted my thinking.

I was keenly aware of the uniqueness of this home, and it had a significant influence on my decision later in life to become an architect. As a child, I played with boxes, making structures and placing them out in the hills behind our house, shaping the dirt, and developing little enclaves. I drew and painted and, at nine, started playing the piano.

Music began to play an important role in my life. My best friend was an excellent flutist. We played flute and piano, and I began to compose for us. Through this friendship, I became even more intrigued with architecture as her grandfather was Dr. Philip Lovell, the owner of the famous Lovell Health House in Los Angeles, designed by architect Richard Neutra and the Lovell Beach House in Newport Beach, designed by architect Rudolf Schindler. Additionally, her aunt and uncle were Sam & Harriet Freeman of the famous Freeman House, designed by Frank Lloyd Wright in his Mayan Revival Style and built in the Hollywood Hills. I can still sense the narrowness and the low ceiling of the hallway of that home that led into an expansive vaulted main living room and the relief that I felt. (I later learned that Frank Lloyd Wright used contraction and expansion as a way to experience the architecture). In addition to these significant works of architecture, I was also introduced to Albert Frey of Palm Springs Mid-Century Modern Fame through another close friend and got to visit with him in his residence, Frey House II.

All these experiences impacted me, yet I decided to pursue an undergraduate degree in music at Mills College in Oakland, California. I studied with Terry Riley, the famous composer and “father of minimalist music.” To this day, I still reflect on the compositional advice he once gave me, “taking a small idea and going deep with it like the water in a well is purer than a lot of ideas that stay shallow and go stagnant on the surface like the water in a pond.” This profound statement has not only been a guiding principle in composing but also in designing.

My studies then took me to Europe, where for a decade, I taught piano, performed, and exhibited my art. Upon returning to the United States, I decided to pursue architecture and embarked upon the path to becoming an architect.

For over thirty years, I practiced architecture in Southern California. And although I continue to work in California and other areas around the country, I am now based in Bentonville, Arkansas. My emphasis is on high-end custom residential design and unique commercial projects focusing on creating architecture through unique, sustainable strategies.

I received a Master of Architecture Degree from NewSchool of Architecture + Design in San Diego, where I was also an adjunct faculty member teaching for a few years in the Graduate Thesis Design Studio, Thesis Research, and 2nd Year Graduate Design Studio.

My work has been recognized, among others, on the redevelopment of Sun Harbor Marina in San Diego with the SDG&E Earth Award. As the first LEED Certified Marina globally, this project set a precedence for the Port of San Diego to require all future port projects to meet LEED criteria. Further, the design team developed Blue Standards, LEED criteria for the marina industry. My work has been published by Eco-Structure, Marina Dockage, San Diego Home and Garden Lifestyles, and San Diego Living.