Skip to content

Welcome to Saved by Design

May 17, 2016

New Stuff:

In Left To Myself Late Frost

In Random Stuff: “See-Click” Architecture

In Not (As) Fat: Fatigue Makes Fatties Of Us All

In Finding Home: Obessive Compulsive Gardening Disorder

In The Rules:  Pitched Roofs Matter 

In Home Page: Making Home

Late Frost

July 24, 2016


Late Frost “can result in trees losing a year’s growth and repeated frost damage can kill trees or hold them in check for many years. Some trees, however, are able to eventually grow to a height above the frost line and then grow normally.” (At least according to a Canadian study)

This year in parts of Connecticut beech trees are leafing out in July. In early May there was a hard frost and the invisible beginnings of leaf production that had just started were frozen dead.

It was understandable that there were almost no magnolia blooms amid those trees bouncing into life this spring, as flowers are the icing on the cake of a plant’s health, so the brutal cruelty of a viciously late frost was an easy reason for the sadness of a flowerless May.

But these tiny beech tree leaves were invisible, so the lack of early summer foliage amid the long term maple blight could easily be read as death. But appearances are not always reality.

My parents had a late frost.

In the late spring of their marriage, 7 years into it, World War II came. The tender shoots of my father’s promising career at the Wall Street law firm he chose to work at upon leaving law school were eventually froze dead by forces out of his control.

Pearl Harbor brought on an Ice Age of crushed lives throughout an America still not beyond the Great Drepresion. My father was forced, at 33, to join the navy. He had already spent the 8 years reserve service in the Army Field Artillery after ROTC at college: but Hitler was winning in 1942 and it was all hands on deck. Join up, salvage a commission somewhere, or be drafted, and lose all control.

The damage of his 4 year life detour was slow to be revealed: it was assumed that his position was there for him upon return from the Pacific. But a 4F Associate in his law firm neither served nor waited for his place in the Partnership Line. The young weasel jumped in to fill the opportunity that my father’s compelled absence presented. It turned out spending a dozen years in parttime service and training did not allow you to escape the draft if you were fit and under 40, even if you were an Ivy White male in 1942.

The catastrophic break in the surety of a reasonably entitled future of confident employment, social standing and personal identity never really healed for my parents. After a rough return, my father found ultimately partnership in a boutique Wall Steet firm, but it was not the same, ever, as his first choice.

Before the 1960’s called into question white male dominance in America, white males, especially those with Ivy Credentials in all their education, had legitimate expectations – just like spring means that freezing is finished for a couple of seasons. The legitimacy was not just merit based, but system based. Being male, being white, being Ivy meant that a ladder was climbed and the fruit could be picked.

Unlike so many of his piers, my father built his ladder: he was the first in his family to go the high school. His extreme effort and an excellent brain meant academic success at every level. Climbing the ladder was the easy part: building it was a bitch.

His mother died unexpectedly when he was one, and my father was raised until five by spinster aunts in Toronto, his early spring had a frost or two: but in early spring, frosts damage less.

As with Climate Change, altered patterns in families tend to extend into an indeterminate future. My parents late frost hurt their children’s early springs. When reasonable expectations become ashes in your mouth, the fear of repeating crushing disappointment is hard to shake. As my siblings did not initially express the expected levels the achievement of our father, the fear of another hard break in his expectations meant a severe frost in their relationships (abetted by a great deal of post 5pm drinking).

So I am left driving down I-95 seeing new leaves in July, thinking of my sisters.

I am with only myself, who had the earliest frost, and thus the least damage. I could use the brain God gave me well enough in my later spring to avoid their damage. Weather is without reason, as is war. I still am uneasy about why I was not frozen dead in the extreme weathering, I am grateful, but unknowing and essentially without confidence that frosts will not return, even approaching 61.

The unreasonably outcomes of chance and sadness are abiding. But when they happen later in our springs they damage more because there is more to damage. I am quite sure my outlook is damaged, but my performance is not. Like my father, my early frost allowed me to perform out of immediate fear of its return.

But for my parents return it did: with glacial impact.

I do not know how I would be different if I did not have my very early frost, or a later one, or none. But every perspective I have, and will have, is yet coping for my family’s frosts. I can only wonder what my siblings perspectives are. We are WASP, and thus we only see consequences, let alone talk about them (or even, really, understand them.)

Like the beech trees this year, my siblings and I coped. But the earlier the frost the more the cope is shaped by it. “Some trees, however, are able to eventually grow to a height above the frost line and then grow normally.”

Have I?

Money & Houses

July 20, 2016



If you own one, houses are our greatest asset and most terrifying debt. Homes are a place where money creates great pride, and potential money pit repairs create great fear. Some of use want to take others’ desperate desire for ownership and “flip” prettied-up homes into profitability for the flipper.

This week’s HOME PAGE: Money & Houses – the dance between greed and sacrifice, irrational exuberance and courageous risk-taking: the American Dream and the last 8 years’ Economic Nightmare: we will have homeowners who have lived the dream, experienced the nightmare, endeavored to flip, rent, invest and not go broke: LISTEN & CALL IN!

“See-Click” Architecture

July 11, 2016

IMG_6572The 21st century has proven to be a tough time for the American psyche. People are killing people on the basis of what they look like. People are killing strangers and themselves because of what they believe – with no evident strategy other than to cause death.

These nightmares are not spontaneous – they come from somewhere. Our culture has been leveled to universal capacity for expression on the internet – a good thing. But our 300 million voices are not in thoughtful dialogue – we are screaming at each other in a high tech Tower of Babel intellectual hellhole.

Architecture is part of our culture, its passions do not involve violence, but a cascade of anger and fear propels collateral impacts. Its not just tone – bitchy commentary has been around since there has been commentary – but the actual mechanisms of communication of building to critic – and critic to commentary – are skewing to the streaming word of unfiltered, unedited unthinking reaction.

We are becoming a reactionary culture of instant judgments based solely on pixels.

I fear that architecture journalism is becoming a HOUZZ/Pintarest/Instagram paradigm of mindless clicking between endless images. Images uber alles. No one asks what the budget was, what the owner loves, what the zoning code demanded, what compass point a façade faces: its just judged: instantly, permanently, prejudicially on the basis of a few thousand pixels.

Hundreds of millions of us are being conditioned to instantly judge thought, emotion or belief on its most superficial visual aspects. Historically architecture has had a unique trinity of platform. First there is the Reality of the Built Thing: use, context, cost, material, and technology. Second the ideas, values and cultural implications of our built stuff created aesthetic argument in intellectual terms. Last, the visual reality of the project – aesthetics dumbed down to “style”. Only the last, cosmetic platform of judgment is comparable with the welling attitude of ignoring substance by fixating on style.

Beyond the new mechanics of commentary, I believe the normal historic dissings between “movements” found in architectural aesthetics could become, or perhaps already are, infected with the growing snark of flaming trolls.

The outpouring of love at Zaha Hadid’s passing by “thought leaders” had a dark side by many who lurk in the underbelly of the internet – Prior to that, Frank Gehry’s “99% is shit” hissy fit sparked any number of radical “attaboy” and “tone deaf” responses

I think architects are on the edge of mutual dismissiveness to the point of radicalized aesthetic rejectionism . It took Robert Venturi’s coverboy rejection of Post-Modernism to get the AIA Gold Medal In contrast, New Urbanist, Classicist, and Traditional architecture expressions, venues, awards and institutions grow, spread and become rejectionist of the 21st century

I fear America’s overwhelming wave of visual addiction will suck architectural thought and commentary down to an even baser level of mindless profiling than we are experiencing now. Sexting turned flirting into porn. Hillary’s hair is PERFECT or evidence she is a lesbian. The Donald’s hair is an endless indictment of his intellect. Any Kardashian visual instantly explodes millions of imitations or screaming, freaking hate-spews.

Architectural commentary was dumbed down to a 2D reality since the advent of the camera – forever changing architecture. But the last 20 years has seen cyber-spawned pixels engorge our screens in a stream of architectural porn that has made for endless architectural “selfies”

Live by the selfie, die by the selfie: while human selfies are subjected to judgments of “fat”, “old”, “Hot” , “rockin’” or any number of emotocons, architecture has but a few “style” sieves. The trivialization of all criteria for aesthetic judgment becomes an instant click of image – a “like”, a “share”, a “visit”. Architectural journalism via a Match.Com modality of instant “See-Click” analysis.

The same safe anonymous radicalization that vaporizes any depth of perception and sensibility in our politics will inevitably come into aesthetics. Critics are actually commenting on architecture, right now, in 120 character Tweets.

Architecture has had a polite extremity profiling buildings to laud elite Modernist dominance. But now, differences in most areas of society are no longer polite: they are viciously projected. Will the “other”- the non-Mod minority – find increasing voice in anonymous righteous anger? Will the “correct” aesthetic, the Modernist establishment, troll and mock the “other” into absurd, insulting caricature? Will we build a wall between “Style”’s – and who will pay for it?

Will Radical Architectural Extremism result from a devolving culture? I hope not. But this year has seen more than its share of dashed hopes.



July 6, 2016




Before & AfterLeonard Saari B&A Exterior

Before & AfterLeonard-Saari B&A Int.1_MG_7802.jpg _MG_7823.jpg




Getting Done in San Francisco


IMG_6319.JPG     IMG_6340.JPG


IMG_6354.JPG      IMG_6374.JPG



The outdoor chapel at Incarnation Camp in Ivoryton, CT

Click here to read about the project.

CEPHAS Housing 25 Years Ago in Yonkers NY

Click here to read about the project.


In Unorthodox: Just the Two Of Us

In Hartford Currant: Yale’s Edifice Complex: University is Building a Modern History for its Future

In Common Edge: Modern Restoration and the Veneration of Its Hero Architects

In Common Edge: When Intellectual Diversity Mattered

In Common Edge: Why Architecture Doesn’t Do More Pro-Bono Work

In Common Edge: The AIA’s Response to Crisis Call In the Stars

In Common Edge: Will Architecture Have Its Donald Trump Moment?

In New Haven Independent: Visionary Bromances

In New Haven Independent: Architecture Becomes a Lifestyle

In New Haven Independent: That’s It?

In New Haven Register: Battered Homeowner Syndrome in New Haven

In New Haven Register: New Haven Knights of Columbus building – an icon reclad

In Common Edge: Why Architecture Needs More Building Architect Critiques

In Common Edge: Architects Design Just 2% of All Houses – Why?

In Common Edge: Death & Architecture

In Common Edge: Sprinting to the Past

In Hartford Courant: Deborah Berke, First Woman To Lead Yale’s School of Architecture

In Common Edge: Architecture Has Become a Lifestyle Choice

In Daily Nutmeg: Creation Story

In Next Avenue: Aging and Your Home: The Coping Quotient

In New Haven Register: When Things Go South – Design Can’t Save Bad Building

In Hartford Courant (login required): The Classroom of the Future

In New Haven Register: When Branding Becomes Blanding in New Haven

In Home Living Magazine: City Living: An Award Winning Renovation

In Hartford Courant: What CT Has Is History- Don’t Neglect It

In New Haven Independant: Architect Couple, Institute Library Snag Awards

In Hartford Courant: History is Precious

In New Haven Register: New Haven’s Court Street is ‘like its own little town’

In Hartford Courant (login required): Smart Home Design In A City That’s Neighborly

In New Haven Register: Villas on a ridge, New Haven’s Hillhouse Avenue

In Townvibe: Simple Pleasures, an Artful Blend of Modern and Traditional

In Hartford Courant (login required): A Classic Street Ages, But Retains its Beautiful Bones

In New Haven Register: Forum: Yale, Pearl Harbor bridge projects show branding matters, money follows

In New York Times: Everything and the Kitchen Sink

In New Haven Register: Millennial Meme Housing Sprouts in New Haven

In Hartford Courant (login required): “Christmas in Connecticut” was Perfect for War-Weary 1945 American Moviegoers

In Room One Thousand: Sixty Panes of Faith

In Behind the Walls: The Not So Tiny House Movement (Part 1)

In AIA: It’s not the Media: It’s the Work

In New Haven Register: Quarantining Architecture

In New Haven Register: Weeds on New Haven’s Oak Street Lawn

In New Haven Magazine: Back Yard Forward

In New Haven Register: Ultimate Gesture of Architectural Modesty is a Buried Building

In New Haven Register: Tulips, Architecture Students & Bubbles that Burst

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!




July 4, 2016


Holocaust is a nightmare word. It is an irredeemable disaster: an occasion of no evident silver linings. It was a word before Hitler’s Final Solution, but it has become that “solution”‘s proper name. A good thing

Elie Wiesel died and was buried on this July 4th weekend. For a WASP sheygetz like me the Holocaust was always held at arm’s length. My deeply anti-semitic father came to doubt the reality of the event. I did mention to him on the one occasion he expressed his doubts that General Eisenhower would have have to be a prime participant in the conspiracy, but my father shrugged, took another sip of his Vat 69 scotch and changed the subject.

His extreme prejudice, that jews were somehow inbred into being completely uniform in their disposition was not just irrational, but completely unsupported by his personal life. My brother’s godfather was a jew, deeply beloved by my parents. His de facto best friend, his coin and stamp dealer in New York who he spend endless hours with was jewish, and my father delighted in recounting his insights as, irony intended, Gospel.

But the automatic slurs and judgments spewed out about my mother’s jewish friends, any public figure and anything Jewish were just another metronome in my early childhood. It was a near Tourettes trigger response. Just as he worshipped black jazz musicians as being the greatest talents in his world, the jewish lawyers he worked with and against were always scary smart, literally.

The upside of my family’s classic Mad Men dysfunctionality was that I saw my parents as humans, versus Mom and Dad from the time I was about 5 years old. No hero worship, no role modeling amidst the screaming, crashing, and long days and nights of dead silence.

So I actually did not care about what anyone was, as I knew I wasn’t much myself. My unending incapacity to have meaning in my distracted parents’ lives had one stark and grinding truth: That I was simply out of their orbit – so I was free to think and feel pretty much anything I wanted to without any guilt.

I had many jewish classmates and college meant falling deeply in love (for a year) with a jewish woman – who my father took a shine to (she was quite lovely).

The coincidence of my father’s antisemitism and his immersion in post-5pm alcohol was, in truth, just coincidence. Long before 14 ounces of scotch were consumed (every night) within an hour of arriving home from Manhattan my dad was a student at Boy’s High in Brooklyn. It was both a source of pride and anger that he was the No. 2 student in his graduating class. Second to a Jew. But the only non-Jew in the top 5. He remembered rumbles between jews and christians – an odd gangstah reality I have never heard anywhere else.

So my tiny, personal and private Holocaust, one that devastated a WASP family in mid-Westchester mid-century had no huge scale consequences. It was not the result of an extreme worldwide insanity that wrought maximum effort to the industrialized elimination of a perceived deadly cultural virus that I heard Elie Wiesel quietly report on to a packed sweaty audience when I was at college in 1976.

No my tiny holocaust was just a smart man and his adoring wife, falling into a socially accommodated series of very bad choices. Those choices included having children who where subjected to the window of the mental mechanisms that created the engines of death that nearly wiped out a people.

My tiny holocaust was connected to Wiesel’s in a deeply personal way at that talk at Cornell. When he later wrote: “I have not lost faith in God…I have moments of anger and protest. Sometimes I’ve been closer to him for that reason.” I could completely relate, in a tiny way.

I thank God regularly that I was spared Wiesel’s Holocaust, and the other less extreme ones of so many I know – but I also know that no one escapes tragedy. No one dies unvictimized in some way, even my parents.

No solace there, but the truth.

Making Home

June 30, 2016


There are Well over 100,000,000 households in the United States – and every one of them has a place they call “home.”

Over 70,000,000 of them are owned, the rest rented or shared, and 500,000 new ones are built every year. Being an architect I focus on the built environment – how families can physically create a place for themselves. But having done that about 500 times in 35 years, I know that its the motives that make a home, not the means.

Ask my sons about their home and they will cite the smell of dinner or the Christmas tree – not the Record House, Met Home and Fine Homebuilding place we built for our family.

Duo Home Ext_002

My mother was a decorator and spent endless hours making this place


But its not what I think of when I harken back to home: its coming in from raking leaves for “melted cheese” on toast and Campbell’s Tomato Soup – made with milk!

Home is not what we, or Martha Stewart, or HGTV, or Dwell Magazine   think it should be. Its not what HOUZZ floods onto our screens, or IKEA markets or even what Garrison Keillor described on “Prairie Home Companion” – its not even the home in the Brady Bunch. Home is what we love where we live.

It is what we love where we live. Some of us obsess about making it as perfect a reflection of what we value and love as we can – others simply find a place and make it theirs.

Whether you spent millions of dollars or thousands of hours making a home, if the effort is not about you and your family, but about trying to define how others perceive you, you have just made a domestic resume – a job application for the world to hire you as a legitimate home maker – but you have not made a home.

Homes are made by the love or sadness, the passions and pastimes, the objects and food we love, – but mostly – mostly – by the the life we share within the 4 walls that protect and reflect us.

LISTEN to the Radio Reality of this Thought Stream:




When Triscuits & (unsweetened) Ice Tea

June 20, 2016


…are enuf

It’s a fun romp when Low Episcopal WASP culture is both unearthed and celebrated amongst the Chosen: Duo is at 22m 45s, but it’s all good LISTEN:

Just the Two of Us


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 108 other followers