The name ¬†Charles A. Haertling is familiar to many people in Boulder today, despite his untimely death at 55 years of age in 1984. He was known as a consummate city council member who from 1967-1973 championed such civic projects as Greenbelts/Open Space, Boulder Tomorrow which resulted in the Pearl St. Mall, and the sign ordinance. He was also involved in the activities of Historic Boulder, and the Chautauqua board, all of which have contributed to the excitement, beauty and livability of the city. In 1974 he won the Plan Boulder Award for being “City Council’s strongest voices for aesthetic and environmental awareness.” But he is best known for being Boulder’s foremost modern architect of an environment- specific form of organic architecture as inspired by Frank Lloyd Wright, Antonio Gaudi, Bruce Goff and others.

Haertling was born in Ste. Genevieve, Missouri in 1928, and joined the Navy after high school, serving two years from 1946-48. He probably would have gone to Annapolis to become a career Navy officer, until they showed him a film about it that really turned him off on that idea. The Navy provided him with a series of aptitude tests conducted by the Human Engineering Laboratories, the results of which pointed him in the direction of architecture as a career.

Haertling graduated in 1952 with a degree in architecture from Washington University in St. Louis through the GI bill. He moved to Boulder in 1953 to teach at the University of Colorado, and worked as a designer for Jim Hunter and later Tician Papacristou. He began his own architectural practice in 1957 that lasted 25 years, and designed over 40 buildings in and around Boulder, most of them residential. Projects outside of Boulder include two churches in Denver, which was his particular passion in design. Haertling also met his future wife Viola Brase in Boulder, and together they raised a family of four children here.

In all of his work he considered the design challenge as a trust and beauty as a human need and not a luxury. This follows from the organic architecture principle of enrichment, in which more is better. This is expressed in a care for controlled detail, striving for ideals of space, form, functionality and timelessness. Haertling developed this statement to describe his method:

“The design process is one of painful exhilaration in human endeavor where one gives ultimate importance to the problem to being solved, letting the problem itself be an integrated solution which uses materials and structure void of distortion of uses untrue to the nature of the material or process, testing the boundaries of the application so as to give excitement, variety, adventure and human relation to the project.”

Each commission Haertling received involved in-depth interviews with the client to determine their particular needs. The personality of the client factored in greatly in the final resulting design. Even the children in families had their input in the process. And it was not uncommon that Haertling would have to tell a client to find another architect in the case that the chemistry was not right.

Haertling also wanted his work to contribute to the fabric of the city, to enhance the image and spirit of Boulder. To this end he strove to make the work progressive, innovative and exciting, representing the artistic and ruggedly individualistic nature of the community, and reflecting the physical environment, both earth and sky.

As a person Haertling’s overriding concern in all his actions was caring, and the result of this attitude is reflected in his architectural and civic work. In his last interview on his death bed Haertling urged this as proactive principle to follow in all human endeavor.

In the interest of preserving his drawings, writings, and as much of Haertling’s architecture that is not already been compromised, a foundation was set up in his name in 1984. The Carnegie Branch Library for Local History in Boulder presently houses his line drawings and many of his sketches and photographs. In addition, the Charles A. Haertling Foundation was established to document his work. To this end Joel Haertling has completed a feature length film documenting the design process of Charles Haertling for the two Denver churches, as well as the Warburton residence in Gold Hill, and the Menkick and Brenton houses. He is also currently working under a grant from the Boulder Arts Commission to write and design a book of Haertling’s architecture. To contact the Foundation please call (303)447-8504, or write to the Charles A. Haertling Foundation, 1714 Broadway, Boulder, Colorado 80302.

Source: the Charles A. Haertling Architecture Page.