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Welcome to Saved by Design!

July 22, 2014

New Stuff:

In Random Stuff:  Tulips, Citibank and Frank Lloyd Wright

In Not (As) Fat: Expectation

In Finding Home:  Almost Done

In The Rules:  Gutter Religion

In Home Page: Possessions


July 22, 2014


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Under Construction:



Recently Completed!

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The outdoor chapel at Incarnation Camp in Ivoryton, CT

Click here to read about the project.


In New Haven Register: Flood tide of rental housing could change New Haven’s landscape

In New Haven Magazine: Still by the Sea

In New Haven Magazine: Preserving the Past for the Future

In River & Shore’s Coastal Homes: Boy Was It Worth It

In New Haven Magazine: From Family to Farm

In The New Haven Register: Ultimate Gesture of Architectural Modesty Is Buried Building

In The New Haven Register: Yale’s Evans Hall: Overdressed for Success

In New Haven Magazine: Cubed

In New Haven Magazine: Finding Design

In The New Haven Register:  Pearl Harbor Bridge in New Haven Extension of Greatest Generation’s Legacy

In Hartford Faith & Values:  An Elevator on Orchard Street

In The New Haven Register:  Are Neighbors More Neighborly when there is Greater Density?

In New Haven Magazine: Lawyers In Love

In Ink Magazine:  Architect Duo Dickinson: Celebrating 35 Years of Good Design for Everyone

In New Haven Magazine: A House of Homes

In The Source:  Duo Dickinson, Architect at Large

In River & Shore’s Coastal Homes:  On the Indian River

In The New Haven Register:  Aesthetically inconvenient Mudd Library faces death sentence

In Connecticut Magazine: Elements of Surprise

In The New Haven Register: Real Icons Aplenty in New Haven

In The Mercurial: Erosion Revelation

In Architecture Boston: Post-Modernism and Intelligent Design

In Design Bureau: Steve & Frank

Archive: Real Life Survival Guide



On Common Ground with Annette Ross:  She asked “Where is Architecture?”, I answered

On HGTV:  Mercedes Home Diaries       Password: mercedes



On Home Page, Binnie Klein & I debut our new radio show. Listen here!

On A Miniature World, Binnie Klein & I discuss springtime striving, mislaid spirituality & the folly of architectural terms. Listen here!


The smartest show on radio about our domestic relations

July 22, 2014

This week: “HomeWork: When the Office Comes Home” (part one). Binnie Klein and Duo Dickinson talk about the agonies and ecstasies of the home office. Journalist Dorri Olds will join and talk about what it’s like to work from her Chelsea, NY home.

Listen! 89.5 FM  Call In! (203) 336-9756

Tulips, Citibank and Frank Lloyd Wright

July 20, 2014

- there is a fine line between genius and narcissism

Last Week Citibank paid $7,000,000,000 to head off federal prosecution. “The banks conduct was egregious” noted US Attorney General Eric Holder. The bank had taken unsustainable projections of inflated U.S. house values into the capital markets with a ferocity that ultimately demanded retribution when those projections were revealed as delusional and bankrupted millions of homeowners. Fraud is criminal, greed is not. The greed that caused Citibank’s “egregious” misrepresentations that might have been found to be criminal is not an isolated manipulation of delusion.

In the early 17th century the Dutch found tulips to be desirable and bought every and any bulb they could find. The price went up to the point where Wikipedia notes “At the peak of tulip mania, in March 1637, some single tulip bulbs sold for more than 10 times the annual income of a skilled craftsman.” The only reason the price of tulips went to insane levels was the greed of the sellers who knew that they could get more money for them than was in any way “reasonable”.

There have been 10 recessions since World War II. Every one of them was based on greed. In the late 1990′s I sat between two 20-somethings on a plane who spent the entire flight gushing that their tiny tech companies would pay out hundreds of thousands of dollars “when” their companies went public and their stock options could be sold. Their greed was giddy – and deluded.

In theory we have come out of the Great Recession. Do you feel it? I don’t. Absent a new bubble of “irrational exuberance” the emotional recession we still feel has a direct effect of the economic exuberance we act on – whether as validated greed or justified debt.

Citibank, and many other financial pressure cookers, took an essential – a place to live – and surfed the wave of housing hype provided by realtors, large home builders and mortgage brokers to turn homes into 17th century tulips..

Architects, like doctors or lawyers, are licensed to “protect health, safety and welfare”. Architects design fewer than 5% of the homes in America, but we are the only objectively state-validated “experts” on construction, and as a profession we were not ahead of the insane valuation of homes that lead to rediculous risk in one specific building type.

I and a few other architects wrote and spoke on the craziness during the 2000′s housing boom, but most just surfed the same wave as Citibank, cashing the checks of the deluded. The public welfare suffered more at some marginal level because architects, who knew better, didn’t speak louder – and often added to the hype that inflated the bubble.

Housing starts are up to 1,000,000 per year – jumping from 300,000 4 years ago, but less than 1,800,000 of 8 years ago. Houses are one of the Big 3 Necessities (food, shelter and clothing) so there is never nothing spent on places where we live – and with a population of 300,000,000 that level of home building may be sustainable.

But no one thinks they are going to retire on the growing value of their home anymore, no one thinks borrowing over 100% of a home’s current value is a good idea. Architects are still grossly underemployed, with firms hiring and firing as jobs come and go, with no faith in ongoing work.

And another bubble, the slowly inflating Higher Education Bubble has blown up to the highest cost in history. This year 20,000,000 are enrolled despite, or perhaps because of, The Great Recession. Education might have become the Big 4th Necessity, with its debt-fed, ever-increasing price tag becoming another drag on the hopes of people under 30.

Just as people buy cars and houses based on their monthly payback of the debt they cause, versus their actual total cost, students jump into academic debt. Architecture students are no different: but their “irrational exuberance” is itself a bubble given the grim uncertainty of actually getting a job in the profession.

At the peak of the last building bubble, 2007, 5,781 students were awarded architectural degrees in the U.S.. After 6 years of The Great Recession 6,347 degrees – a record number – were awarded. This is a 10% increase in the face of several analysts declaring architecture one of the worst-hit professions during the Great Recession.

The Architecture School Bubble is based on the same hype as theater arts, fine arts and music degrees: “Follow your bliss” – even if there are almost no prospects for prosperity: this is noble. And if your training facilitates personal expression: acting in community theater, playing in a band or painting a landscape the cost of those educated obsessions is nothing.

Building anything costs a lot. There is a fine line between narcissism and genius. Self-created, economy-independent geniuses like Frank Lloyd Wright for architects or Steve Jobs for tech start ups make self-indulgence feel like investment. Narcissism and greed are not unrelated. Citibank and universities are more than happy to provide a vehicle for both. Unfortunately in the end, a tulip is just a tulip, architecture schools are not graduating 6,000 Wrights a year and bubbles inevitably burst.


July 19, 2014
At a place I was sent to 50 years ago, and have now helped create buildings with for almost 30 years - pro bono architecture hurts financially, but witnessing 300 kids end a 4 week experience in a place they love makes the sacrifice seem more than inevitable, but reasonable: "do all such good works as God has prepared for you to walk in"

At a place I was sent to 50 years ago, and have now helped create buildings with for almost 30 years – pro bono architecture hurts financially, but witnessing 300 kids end a 4 week experience in a place they love makes the sacrifice seem more than inevitable, but reasonable: “do all such good works as God has prepared for you to walk in”

Gutters are of the Devil – the canon expanded/detoxed 7/12/14

July 14, 2014

IMG_9634 (1) (Copy)Gutters and leaders are devoutly to be avoided. They make construction more expensive now and in the out years.  When we effort redirection of a massive natural forces: gravity, earthquakes, wind, and rainwater it imposes costs on homes: most of these are necessary investments or your home will not protect you over time. But catching water as it comes off of your roof with a mini-plumbing system is absurd on its face: unseal-able, tacked on, facing the ravages of weather and human activity this money-grubbing/time sucking pit of futile effort is just a hubristic attempt at control. Hubris mostly fails, and most gutters mostly fail.

Gutters do control most of the water that runs off your roof, but not all of it.

Most gutters are usually set an inch or two higher than the leading edge of the roof line and form a perfect scoop that holds all ice and snow in place ultimately forcing water to back up underneath your roof shingles and into your house when rain over snow or the inevitable melt happens. Clogging with leaves and tree reproductive gunk renders gutters into planters for weeds and thus crockpots for the rot that eat homes. You either continually maintain them or they cease to work: what other house part requires (REQUIRES) annual upkeep?

They are either exquisitely expensive and look OK (copper, lead coated copper or stainless steel) or are made from ungreen aluminum or funky plastic and look like crap in the outyears. They either have hundreds of points of attachments (one set directly to each rafter) or they rip off with a ice and snow, even when correctly set as described below.

Gutter purveyors Love  the fact that snow and ice terminally bend or rip off gutters on a regular basis – no matter installation technique or material.  And when gutters are installed properly to minimize ice damming and getting ripped off by being set lower than the roof edge, heavy rain water will sheet off the edge of the gutter eroding the ground plane around your façade, and collecting water at you foundation  wall – usually not designed to be a dam.. When this inevitably happens nothing can help but waterproofing the outside wall of your foundation and regrading to control water that might otherwise get in your foundation.

So: Just Say No To Gutters. But the rain will still come down: there is an alternative approach – a system that passively redirects versus being an attempt at command and control. Here are the tenants of this alternative universe of rainwater redirection:

- Create a gravel bed – minimum one inch diameter stones, minimum 1ft-6in wide (wider if eave is higher) over filter fabric at the drip line of your roof with a perforated pipe set in the bed that is pitched to redirect water away to daylight or a dry well.

- Eaves are essential to protect the walls of your home – and they are necessary if you go Gutterless. Your eaves have to be of an adequate depth so that the splashback of rain hitting grade is made irrelevant.  The further out the water is pushed the less pressurizes the groundwater against your foundation walls. This may mean extending your eaves if you have none or they are less that 1foot deep.

- Provide gable rooflets over your head wherever you enter your home because snow doesn’t respect gutters, and without gutters water will shower anyone entering.

- Grade and plant around your house to prevent erosion from the start, gutters or not.

- Use foundation water control systems (water tight coatings, subsurface curtain drain system, or a perimeter drain system to get water away from your basement, gutters or not.

Gutters are sometimes a necessary evil: when a straight line eave has to exist over doors or a large windowscape. But mostly gutters do not work, fail in common use, and never live up to our hopes to control nature and live in a protective nest. Gutters betray our hopes by mocking the money and time spent in installation , repair and maintenance, Assuming that gutters will work for all of these things is a little bit like asking the plastic poncho that you buy for two dollars at a ballgame to be your raincoat for the next twenty years.

Views, views, views

July 13, 2014

It’s the view.


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