I met the late Cal Lewis once, for just a few minutes after a meeting at Des Moines City Hall. But I got to know him, a little better, through emails he would send. Many of them carried what I took as friendly pieces of advice on how best to write about architecture.

Even if he chose to chide me a little on a momentary lack of clarity on some aspect of the profession, he made his point in a friendly way. The message seemed to be, "I know you can do better." I didn’t know him well enough to detect whether he was steaming under the collar as he wrote the email, but I did try to do better.

After Lewis died Nov. 24, architect Paul Mankins remembered his mentor as a "kind person."

"When my wife and I were reminiscing over the past few days about him, we both remember the kind words he told us both in the receiving line of our wedding nearly 25 years ago," Mankins said. "He told us both how much it made him think back to his own wedding and how dearly he held that memory. That sticks with you.

"A couple of architects in my firm were married recently (yes, to each other) and I thought of Cal and those memorable words. I knew he had a great family that he loved very much.  I have always hoped to emulate those qualities as well."

One thing I have detected in architects, many of them mentored in some way by Lewis, is the passion and intellectual energy they bring to their work.

Architect Danielle Hermann said Lewis had that same energy.

"The mantra to do ‘ordinary things extraordinarily well’ were words often repeated and truly were Cal’s approach to design – unwavering excellence," Hermann said. "He was consistent in these from how he taught, to volunteering his time and talents to our professional organizations, to leading the architecture program at ISU, and through to practicing architecture and leading a firm.

"I did not have the chance to ask him directly what inspired him – but knowing first hand how he cultivated potential in the things he chose to do – I suspect he was inspired by planting seeds through the many ways he influenced the profession of architecture and watching those grow over time. By that analogy – he leaves behind a phenomenal garden."