“So Long Frank Lloyd Wright” is a wistful ballad by Simon and Garfunkel lamenting that “Architects may come and architects may go and never change your point of view.” Last week I met one who did.
Richard Bewley, of Tulsa, Oklahoma, has built twenty structures along Galveston’s beachfront. I caught up with Bewley on a scorching day on Pirates Beach West. We sat under my umbrella for shade. A graying man in a floppy hat, shielded by khaki pants and sleeves, he told me of his love affair with coastal architecture.
The long time Methodist Sunday school teacher has given it considerable thought. For two decades he has sought to express his personal interpretation of truth and honesty through his designs. One house a year.
“Each building has been a little larger than the last,” he explains. “But, over twenty years I’ve come to realize that, no matter how magnificent I deem my creations to be, nature will eventually take them all back. The ultimate truth is that nothing is forever. We will always be humbled in the end.”
His humility is endearing. In today’s profit-hungry world, Bewley is a welcome exception. He lives for the here and now and designs his structures accordingly. He doesn’t worry about pricing or the latest trends. “My payoff,” he says, “Is the pure joy on people’s faces when they see my work.”
Fun and fanciful best describe Bewley’s houses. Why? “Because,” he says with a smile,”They are inspired by my hero, Dr. Seuss. And after all, who wouldn’t want to live in Whoville?”
When we hear children’s laughter, he heads that way with a wink.
A short distance down the beach, he is soon is surrounded by a gaggle of youngsters, beach buckets and shovels in hand, their mothers poised with I-phone cameras. However, it is not Bewley they have gathered to see. It is his twentieth building.
And a grand sight it is. A wooden footbridge leads to covered parapets, and then up a spiral staircase to the crowning glory—a pinnacle soaring high into a cobalt blue sky. It is a virtual palace with a quirky Whoville twist. You can sense the touch of a loving creator.
As gentle as the Cat in the Hat he directs his fledglings into a semi-circle around his latest creation. He uses a garden hose tethered to a nearby beach house to help each tiny architect lay the foundation for their own edifices.
You won’t find Richard Bewley’s name on file with the Texas Board of Architectural Examiners. That’s because he is an urban forester by trade. However, if you’re lucky enough to spot one of his creations, you will find that he does, in fact, change your point of view.
Licensed or not, for one day each year he is the most popular architect on Pirates Beach West. So are his castles…all made of sand.
Malcolm D. Gibson
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