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Welcome to Saved by Design

August 17, 2014

New Stuff:

In Random Stuff:  Depression

In Not (As) Fat: Expectation

In Finding Home:  Getting Your Home: The 3 Options

In The Rules:  Two Paths


August 17, 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!


Home New/Home Old: The House as a Time Machine – Antique? Modern? Contemporary?

August 27, 2014

Originally posted on Saved By Design:

Apparently penned in a 1926 Chicago real estate ad, this one phrase is the backbone of all the added meat of real estate marketing: where we live is in 2 places: our home and our neighborhood. Home Page on WPKN 89.5fm took a LIVE hour to talk “where”  with Leigh Gallagher, author of a new book declaring the Suburbs DOA (or at least on life support) -Binnie Klein and I also talked to WTNH’s Anne Nyberg about her suburban empty nest.  LISTEN HERE.

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Home New/Home Old: The House as a Time Machine – Antique? Modern? Contemporary?

August 27, 2014

Home New/Home Old: The House as a Time Machine – Antique? Modern? Contemporary?.

The House as Time Machine

August 26, 2014


The House as Time Machine 

Duo Dickinson and Binnie Klein leap into the domestic space-time continuum:

The best domesticated show on radio, hosted by Binnie Klein and Duo Dickinson welcomes Pat Pinnell, world class architect, planner and thought leader in architecture and Jason Bischoff-Wurstle, exhibit creator and history-demystifier to speak on the nostalgic provenance of the past, the spark of the here and now, and the embodied hope for the future found in architecture.

The Here and Now/The Once and Future, – how our homes are looking glasses to the past, mirrors of our lives, and telescope into the future.


August 15, 2014

Robin Williams’ death has been ascribed to “depression”. Like any one word describing intricate and indefinite circumstances, this pigeon hole falls absurdly short. Now we know money and health were part of his recent life, taking a lifelong struggle into crisis, revealing that one-note diagnosis to be simplistic.

To end life’s Prime Directive (staying alive) billion year hardwiring has to be subverted by, – what? “Depression”? Understanding the set of realities that undo the central purpose of every living thing is way above my pay grade.

But words mean things. “Depression” is not suppression or regression – it’s taking a stable base and making it less. Not reduction, not removal, but making what is, less – “down” is the direction, but less is the result. I have never done drugs, save alcohol, and many drugs, including booze, are classified as “depressants”. Having enough trouble coping and dealing sober, weaving distortion into my day-to-day life is not possible for me. Altho I drank gallons of Genesee Cream Ale every night for a semester or two in 1976, I never drank alone.

Drinking was part of anti-depression in college. I was dumb enough to think being drunk was enough to be, in the moment, happy. My friends and I had wildly giddy nights and hyper responsible days, and I graduated a semester early, despite all the beer. Since then I can honestly say I have never drunk alone, and have not drunk to get drunk. I have been drunk since college, but accidentally so, and have felt more dumb than giddy.

So I find the tidal wave of acquiescence to legalize pot depressing, just as I find willful drinking to get drunk depressing, as is the idea of sucking any smoke into your body to fuzz up your world. I would drink a lot more alcohol if it did not have the side effect of getting me drunk, as what I now drink, unlike Genesee Cream Ale, tastes wonderful to me. I have never met anyone who felt the same way about pot.

The massive overload of legal “be happy” drugs pushed mostly on aging boomers is also depressing. Botox, 4 hour erections, post menopausal lubrication all seem to put the cart before the horse: Unless your baseline life is rewarding, distractions become preoccupations: money, looks, resumes, politics, religion define you – or you intentionally distort your outlook to fuzz unhappiness into OK. For a while. 

It’s depressing to think that our lives are so wanting that the acts of unknowables: royals, rappers, athletes, Kardashians, politicians intoxicate our perspective to fuzzy up our lives. Humans are hardwired to have heroes and villains, but this type of love and loathing has been steroid-fed by the Internet into mass stalking of the loved and loathed – celebrated, political, religious. The devotional projections of old worship patterns – loving saints/hating the devil – has slid off our plate, replaced with the junk food of popular culture.

Almost none of us seem happy in a closed loop, with life centered only on what we are doing in the moment. “It’s never enough” means we walk on the moon, paint the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel and invent the Iphone. But it also means rolling a joint or having another $1.15 pitcher of Genny Cream Ale in 1976. It means we care about who is president and post our lunches on Face Book.

“The center cannot hold” in our lives if we somehow reach the conclusion we have no center. When the peripherals of a life – having a drink, being attractive, getting a raise – become that center they fuzz up the rest of our lives. 

When architects design for a few singular killer images of whatever is built, the actual building – versus the image – becomes distorted and its functionality and its response to its environment is compromised. When any of us focus our lives on things we have no knowledge of, save what we see or hear thru the lens of culture, we lose touch with the real environment we live in and our functionality gets fuzzy. 

No one has an unfuzzy life. Hopes become expectation, and no expectation gets completely fulfilled. “Hope and Change” elected a president: he has admitted not all of his hopes nor all of his changes were fulfilled despite huge support. In truth no one has control of life. Our dearest life creations, our children, never follow a parent’s expectations – when either parent or child has that criteria for success, failure is inevitable. 

But the dead wooly mammoth on our culture’s table is not unmet hopes, its death. The one great uncontrollable – unless to end it yourself. Whether God, Gaia or Dark Energy determines the rules of existence, humans do not. That is depressing to most of us. 

If Robin Williams was committed to an insane asylum, went bankrupt, or died of Parkinson’s Disease it would be sad and noteworthy given his cultural prominence. But in taking his own life, Williams acted out in the central theater of all our fears: death. We live assuming baseline control over the day to day, but clearly we are ultimately controlled: our time in the only plane of existence we know: the here and now – ends. 

Rather than ask the hard questions of meaning oathed in all the replays of Williams-recited roles in film, most of us “stay busy”. Or drink Genny.

When Replacing Pubic Hair With Tattoos & Grad School Is Not Enuf

August 10, 2014

Parents tend to live through their children, – either aspirationally for bragging rights or protectively to pre-empt pain. While instinctual, these autonomic reactions are folly once those children become adults. Absent heinous maleficence children survive and occasionally prosper, just like their parents.

While objectively true, the parental mind – mine at least – fears the worst and grabs for the most for our children. But every potential for danger or distinction sets part of the parental mind into the overdriven mode of “what if”‘s and “maybe I can”‘s to shield or propel our legacies via heroic intercession.

The serendipity of timing cuts both ways. This period in history is defined by the unknowable implications of a pervasive technological revolution that renders millions of resumes irrelevant at the drop of keystroke. The foundation of this scary era is its demographic backstop, we Boomers, who have been ego-fed and hubris finished over the last 70 years.

When narcissistic control freak boomer parents have children who come into adulthood in an era that has starkly limited underpinnings of cultural correctness, economic bankability or moral authority the normal fears and hopes of parenthood become epochally enhanced.

The effectiveness of any parental grasps at control are term-limited. Subsistence farming once meant kids stayed home or starved. “The New Economy” means our children extend education away from us: kids leave to live.

Oh yes, 31 year-old noontime pajama-clad gamers do infest more homes than ever, but Pew Research says that its a minimal increase (32% to 37%) given the freakish malaise of the Great Recession. Most kids still grow up and go away.

Even those in-house or close-by are naturally more alien than their worshipful innocence prior to pubic hair – which ironically now seems to be extremely unfashionable – much of its now naked area replaced by tattoos elsewhere. Just like their parents, our children want to be in control. And both of us want control over the same thing – the kid.

In the 20th century, we could grow, ‘Phro, perm or Dred our hair as a sign we had a hip spark of self-determination. But hair was cut, grew back and the hair that lives under your clothing was just an odd vestige. That hair was politicized for womyn who saw its removal as male dehumanization of half of humanity – fur became the personification of sexual equivalence. Now, ironically, the removal of that same hair by both genders has become a gender equalizer.

But this is an era of radical uncertainty. Perforating your skin to create a 2D recreation of your own billboard is a “I don’t care” act that shrugs away any potential for making a bad choice – easier when there fewer and fewer “right” choices to be had. Additionally controlling the intimate, – the removal of hair that is naturally self-limiting to somehow infantilizing your body in a porn paean is an act of control sanctioned by the Information Age’s bottom line industry: sex.

This casual, anecdotal observation, based on the parent hive comparing notes and visual evidence  of unending Barista inking was backed up by a friend last week, who should know. An emergency room doc who sees scores of patients a week, he proffered “every one under 30 has tattoos and no public hair.”

But the symbolic acts of staining or revealing skin are definitionally superficial, but the motivations are, of course, deeper than that.

The incubator of academia that infantilizes the subordinates (in this paradigm called students) has become an overwhelming presence in our cultural outlook. Where once 12 years of schooling was fine for our grandparents, it grew to 16 years for most of us, to 20? 30? infinite? years of a hothouse reality propped up with borrowed funding.

Whether its acquiring an additional knowledge base to function, or the knowledge once learned is meaningless and new info needs injection, or just that living under the academic rock on debt you pay-back “someday” seems reasonable to school-bragging parents and reality-shifting kids, we seem to be perpetually reacting, versus risking.

“Knowledge Is Good”: said Emil Faber in the movie Animal House, but school is not just about knowledge. It has become several alternate realities: literal preoccupation, plausible avoidance of boredom, defendable hunker down in a time of unknowable expectations.

Amid these squirrely currents, boomer parents, with an anchor firmly in the 2oth century want to brag, protect and help their most precious achievement: the humans they created. Those offspring have sprung – either in a few weeks to undergrad for some, of for the last decade in the hope of getting somewhere for many more.

In diving into school, shedding hair that is mostly unseen, and coloring skin to pique public presence, our children have grabbed hold of what they could in a time where outcomes continuously evolve with the next chip or app.

Hair may be allowed to grow back, tattoos lazered away, and our children may come home, but they have left us as parents and their childhood in a place of memory that cannot be recreated. Mac and cheese tastes as good as it did when you were 6, but you will never be 6 again, or for most of we Boomer parents, the parent of a 6 year old again.

Our children, naturally, have left their parents. The big difference now is that neither parent nor child has much of a map to where a destination might be.




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