Aaron Betsky

Charles Paterson was a constructor — of buildings, of a world of hospitality, of a community, and of a life for his family and himself. He built a world for himself here in Aspen, and for its visitors, and in so doing showed how you could reconstruct yourself and your place into a place of beauty.

Charles was also a fine fellow, a true fellow, a Fellow and member of the Fellowship Frank Lloyd Wright established in 1932. As such he was a member of a community of designers, builders, performers, thinkers, and doers that was and is based at Taliesin, but which always has found a welcome here. Through him, Aspen became a second home for the wayward Fellows here in the mountains. On behalf of all the members of that community, including the Fellows, the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation, and the School of Architecture at Taliesin, I can say that we will greatly miss that warmth, that wit, that hospitality, that love of architecture, nature, music, and art all wrapped up together that made Charles Paterson who he was.

The world that Charles made, together with Fonda and their two daughters, was one that he built up out of the bits and pieces, the memories and the lessons, that he salvaged out of the world he left behind and out of his flight, first to Australia, then to the United States, to New York and Colorado. They included his memories of the modernist architecture with which he had been surrounded as a child, the Alps he had loved exploring on skis and while hiking, as well as the past times that were here in Aspen, namely its history as a mining community and its geological history. What he made out of what he remembered and experienced was something that reconstructed, condensed, and expressed all of that. He gave shape to a place through his experiences.

Charles then helped to give Aspen a new shape, a new set of forms, and a new life. It was one that made you see the mountains and the buildings that were already here in a new way, that transformed them into something that was new. He developed the forms he learned from Frank Lloyd Wright, from the mountains, and from his memories, and brought them all together. Charles Paterson believed in building a better world, one that was open to all, beautiful, and sustainable. That is what he, with Fonda and his family, did here.

I am sorry to say that I only met Charles Paterson in what turned out to be the last few years of his life. But that also meant that I had the benefit of all his stories, his thoughts, his perceptions, and his support. As soon as I met him, I found him to be the very personification of everything I think Taliesin should stand for: a true person of culture, design, and nature; humble, keen to share his love of both natural and human-made beauty, thoughtful. Above all else, and I do not know what other word to use, he was, in his life and in his character, fascinating.

It was that fascinating quality that Carrie and he caught in his book. That tome was overwhelming to me when I first received it, and intimidated me. As soon as I opened its pages, though, I could not put it down, and I just kept reading those stories of his father’s and of his, without stopping, until late in the night.

Now the book of his life has ended. We wish that it hadn’t, but at least we can read, reread, remember, and relive his life, and take it as an example of how construct a place of true fellowship.