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Welcome to Saved by Design

December 19, 2017

New Stuff:

In Random Stuff: Confusion

In Home Page: Festive Home

In Left To Myself : Steroids & the Disciple/Apostle

In Not (As) Fat: One Meal A Day

In Finding Home: The Next Thing…

In The Rules: Between Rocks & Hard $$$

In Silence In Spring : Astonishing…


January 21, 2018


THIS THURSDAY, – LIVE-  January 25, NOON WPKN 89.5FM Streaming

Why do we care about “Style”?

Architects judge, ridicule, laud and qualify on the basis of words like “Modernist”, “Vernacular”, “Classical” or “Traditional”. Real Estate brokers rigorously name their listings as “Contemporary”, “Colonial”, or “Modern”. All of us buy a Chevy, or a Ford or want things to be “Green” or “Luxury” or…what? Why do we trust “Style”? Why do so many design professionals engage in “Style” Shaming – dismissing the legitimacy of any given design based solely on the most superficial aspects of it’s “Style”.

Houses have had over 95% of their designs untouched by anything other than “Style”: Architects design less than 5% of all American homes: most are built with stock plans bought by a builder or development company or homeowner, all of these stock designs are defined by “Style”. An avowed “Style” equates to a price point for sale, resale or estimating value.

But homes are, inevitably, the most valuable thing we own, or the most expensive thing we pay for every month: If we are unsure of “what” our house is, we are threatened by our ignorance. More than ever before, we define ourselves by naming class, race, gender, politics, sex, and so it’s time to ask: Why “Style”? HOME PAGE has collected a group of humans whose knowledge and experience in home naming and design definition is extraordinary.

Joining us in studio is a Leader of a Full Service Real Estate Team, the Whiteman Team, at Raveis Reality: Realtor Leigh Whiteman, Leigh is a “Luxury Properties Specialist” and went to school at Mount Holyoke College and Sarah Lawrence College She is on the Middlesex Shoreline Association of Realtors, Connecticut Association of Realtors, National Association of Realtors, The Institute for Luxury Home Marketing Specialist and Guild Designations Top Producer consistently in top 1% of area agents, and the Top Producing Team on Shoreline . Married to artist Jefri Ruchti – they have 2 children, 2 grandchildren and she is the Co-founder of Momomo Dance Company performing in New York City & Westchester County and has been an Assistant Professor of Dance – Elizabeth Seton College

Joining us via phone is Pat Pinnell: architect, author, teacher, master planner and aesthetician . Pat has his office in Hartford, and formerly headed Yale’s graduate research program in Environmental Design, and taught design studio and architectural theory classes He has taught and lectured at many American architectural schools and organizations as well as in Europe and Japan. He writes commentary on development issues periodically for the Hartford Courant. His book on the architecture and historic planning of the Yale University is extraordinary. Pat lives in a two century old house in the historic Connecticut River town of Higganum with his wife, architectural historian Kathleen Curran.

Joining us also is Mariane Custato who is a professor at Notre Dame University and was recently selected by FORTUNE Magazine as one of the Top Women in Real Estate, and is the author of two books: The Just Right Home: Buying, Renting, Moving…or Just Dreaming–Find Your Perfect Match! with Daniel DiClerico (April 2013, Workman Publishing) and Get Your House Right, Architectural Elements to Use and Avoid,  Cusato’s 308 s.f. Katrina Cottage design won the Smithsonian Institute’s Cooper-Hewitt Design Museum’s 2006 “People’s Design Award.”  She has been ranked the No. 4 most influential person in the home building industry by Builder Magazine and in 2012, was voted one of the 30 Most Influential Women in the Housing Economy by HousingWire Magazine.



Steroids & the Disciple/Apostle

January 14, 2018

If my mother had not smoked during her pregnancy 63 years ago, I might have played college football. At 5ft 11in tall and a 5.4 second 40 yard dash, I was, like many high school football players, small and slow.

But if I was born 5 years later, I would be dead because I was a full-throated disciple.

In 1970, there were no steroids available for high school athletes. They were expensive, dangerous, and worked. At the time I desperately wanted to be good at something I could control. I was a Disciple of Football. On one level it was my life.

If those drugs were available, even though I have never smoked anything, and did not drink until legal – in fact I was a Model Citizen – I would have bought illicit steroids and used them. Steroids work: athletes get stronger, faster, and can do more.

When you are devoted in youth, capacity is all you want. You have proven not much and want to do more. You are a Disciple of what you believe to be your future. I would do anything – anything – to get better.

So if I was born in 1960, I would have found steroids, I would have been better. That was enough. I could be faster, have more muscle than 189 pounds. Maybe I could play Division 3 Football. I could transcend devotion into action – a could be an Apostle.

No architecture school early. No building and writing in the first 10 years after my graduation. And, probably, I would be dead now.

The cancers and body changes steroids create eventually kill many of their users. I came to get that, so when I coached football a decade after I played I helped convince a few that were using steroids to stop. Or at least I hope so.My Apostleship only happened because they knew I was a Disciple, just like them.

Almost all of us start as Disciples: we come to believe, often beyond facts, in things we trust to be true. As we gain facility, we become Apostles: we practice and invoke what we believe. “May we all get what we deserve” said my future mother in law at our Wedding Rehearsal Dinner. No: we get what we are given: by God’s grace, by our choices, by what those choices reflect.

We become Apostles to those choices – or at least I did.


January 13, 2018


Gold Model

Getting Done in Westchester

Progress in Greenwich


Sherman Stokes Entry

Getting Done in San Francisco


 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 Common Edge: Did The AIA Take a Pass on Postmodernism?

In Mockingbird: Jesus Makes More Sense When We Lose

In the Hartford Courant:Holy Holes!

In Common Edge: How the Internet has Turned Architecture into a Form of Online Dating

In The Daily Caller: Rebuilding Penn Station

In Common Edge: Sprinting to the Past

In Common Edge: Stern and Saarinen at Yale: What Architectural “Style” Reveals


In Hartford Courant: Cracking Up: How To Repair Gaps Around Trim, Windows And Doors Caused By Humidity Shifts

In Mockingbird: When Death Happens To The Unknown Next Of Kin

In EventBrite: Dramatic Cultural Change and the Future of Architecture

In ArtSpace New Haven: City-Wide Open Studios

In Common Edge: The Challenge and Terror of Making Payroll as an Architect

In Common Edge: Christopher Alexander’s New Architecture Program Offers an Alternative to Style and Orthodoxy


PODCAST: the Other Home – a Podcast

In Building Beauty: Ecologic Design and Construction Process

In Common Edge: Architecture and the Illusive, Maddening and Thrilling Quest for Beauty

In Unorthodox Podcast: Birthright for WASPs?

In The New Haven Register: For Union Station garage, why not better and bigger?

In Common Edge: Swipe Left: How Technology Has Skewed Architectural Competitions

In Mockingbird: Football At Last: A Preseason Preview

In Mockingbird: Suburbia at the Mid-Century: Church

In Common Edge: Does the New Traditionalism Have A Point?

In Mockingbird: Giddy Godless Weddings

In Common Edge: What’s Happened to Architectural Record’s Record Houses issue?

In Mockingbird: On Being Fat (and Life’s Other Unavoidable Criteria)

In Mockingbird: The Girls of Whitehaven: Love and Friend Requests in Cyber Space

In Mockingbird: Taking a Dip in the Dark Side

In Common Edge: Building Madness: How the Boom and Bust Mentality Distorts Architecture

In Mockingbird: An Irrational Lack of Fear…

In Mockingbird: Designing Justification: A Conference Talk Preview

In Common Edge: Confessions of a New AIA Fellow, or “Getting the “F”

In Mockingbird: Something Missing (In Recovery Services)

In Common Edge: Imitation, Innovation, and the 700th Cantilever

In Mockingbird: April Fools! College Admission and Parental Validation

In Mockingbird: Politics, Fragility, and the Self-Made Life

In New Haven Register: New Haven Is Putting Its Money Where Its Modernism Is

In Common Edge: Separating Architecture From The Building Arts Produces Soulless Structures

In Mockingbird: Alternative Faith: Click Crack, Fakes News, and Good News

In Common Edge: The Uneasy Relationship between Architect’s and Money

In Mockingbird: Pray for Voldemort?

In Issuu: Masonry Design JanFeb2017

In Mockingbird: Rite One – Law & Order

In Mockingbird: The Academic Terror Dream

In Common Edge: Is Architecture as Fractured as our Politics?

In Hartford Courant: New Interest in Iconic Pirelli Building

In Hartford Courant: Final Touchdown: Hand HS Coach Steve Filippone Passes The Ball After 37 Years

In Mockingbird’s Mockingcast Podcast: Special Episode: The Holiday Survival Guide

In Common Edge: Is Cost Architecture’s Weakest Link To Reality?

In Common Edge: The AIA’s Tone-Deaf Response to the Election of Donald Trump

In Common Edge: The BIM Moment: What We’re Losing in the Robot-Age of Architecture

In Mockingbird: The Big Mo: Feeling and Rationalizing ‘Momentum’

In New Haven Register: Why spend $60 million on an ugly building

In Common Edge: What Architecture Has in Common with Organized Religion

In Mockingbird: What is Faith? A Look at the Religiosity of Football Fans

In U.S. News Real Estate: How to Design and Build Your Own Custom Home

In Common Edge: What Do Architects and Commercial Fishermen Have in Common?

In Common Edge: In Architects We Trust? 10 Trusts Worth Busting

In Common Edge: Donald Trump as Architectures Nightmare Client

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 WTNH News:  Madison Architect Sheds Light on Solar Solution for Homeowners

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

On HGTV:  Mercedes Home Diaries       Password: mercedes


Bedford Falls

January 5, 2018


We built our home in Madison, Ct. in 1984.

It was a one bedroom, one bath house. 1,100 square feet. It was the same size as the new condo’s just finished west of the town. Even with the land, it cost less than those units.
We were, to our knowledge, the only “Double Income/No Kids Couple” (DINK) Couple in town. Madison was, and is, a “Bedroom Community”. My wife was a lawyer in Stamford and I was a new partner as a newly licensed architect in Branford: So not only were we without issue in the school/parent system, we were commuters, using our new hometown of Madison as a bedroom community for we DINK’s.

We built a small home for ourselves in a place of old in-town homes or new, spec-built McMansions. Who knew how long we would be there, and no body reached out to us except the persons whose backyard we had just purchased to build our home. And they were “older” – although younger than I am now.

As hoped for and planned, I opened my own office, in town, less than 1/2 mile from our home. My wife settled into her employing law firm. Soon I found a building to buy for my office a 1/4 mile away from my first rented office, using a small inheritance for renovation and a down payment. So we owned two places in town.

94 Bradley Road_001

We took a year to find fertility, but we did: we were “older” first-time parents than those around us. We then Immediately built, at great cost to us, the planned 2 bedroom, 1.25 bath addition that rendered our “starter home” into “The 20 Year Home” at 1,800 square feet, where we would raise our (soon) 2 kids.

In about 5 years my wife ended up working 1/8 of a mile from my office and 1/2 a mile from our house for much of our children’s student years. We never missed a parent teacher night, performance or game (I never even missed practices until high school – and I made some of those.)

10 years in another couple, but younger, with one working spouse and soon two kids, wanted me to design a house for them in Madison. That I did. But, they were looking for land, too. I found that a larger than minimum parcel was available, and it actually touched one end of our 1.25 acre site. I theatrically proposed that my “only” (HA) way for working for them was if they Did Not Pay Me. I would do the job for whatever land it took to provide a minimally sized septic system to build a second building on an expanded site. If they said yes we would have two buildings on a 1.87 acre site – owning three structures in Madison.

Our boys were just on the cusp of teen-aging: we either got more space or we would move. The client-soon-friends jumped at the great site and favorable terms. We built their house.Friedman (Madison) 9-12-05_001
Upon knowing this I told my older son, perhaps 10 years old, that we could build a Fun Barn for his and his brother’s play and use; “NO” he said. “I will Not have a ‘Fun Barn’, I will have a ‘Barn of Fun'”. That we did. Then over the next 5 years we built a heated, finished barn. It ended up I used it more than anyone, and gatherings of many people on many occasions use it far more than our children did. But it meant we had “The Forever Home”.

So it’s been 34 years.


Our boys went through the public school system all their 13 years of being students before college. Both were deeply involved in music with other kids, one was engaged in the amazing football program. My wife was part of any number of school activities and other local efforts, I did a fair amount of pro bono work for not-for-profits, including for the town, and my practice has had over 150 local commissions. My wife and I are deeply involved in the local arts group I helped to found 25 years ago. Its my 30th year in business here.

But none of this prepared me for what I experienced last night.

It was a blizzard. I was in the office alone. I could not get my car out of a snow filled parking lot, so I walked home. The only passable place in a time of screaming wind and horizontal snow was the partially plowed street. A 10 minute walk.

It was twilight. There were a few cars out. As I ambled down the semi-plowed street, a car stops next to me: “Want a ride home, Duo?” I do not know his name, smile, say thanks, no, I am good. “You sure?” – yes – thanks!

Then down the road, a snow-blowing woman, unrecognizable by me, across the street, screams “HI DUO!” I scream back and wave.

Further on, I get passed by a truck (one of only a few in the time I have been walking, maybe 7 minutes.) It stops, backs up to me, and in the middle of Route 1, inside a man whose name I space on, yells, “Hey Duo, wanna ride home?” – Ha, I reply, just another 200 feet! “you sure?” – Thanks! I say, on he and I go.

Another truck comes by me, lights flashing on the way to a Volunteer Fireman Call. I get to my drive and turn up it. That truck comes back to my driveway. The unknown person in the truck yells out to me, 40 feet up my drive, “Hey Duo, Everything OK?” – I laugh again and say “I’m home! – THANKS!” He laughs and drives on…

Four people I did not recognize, recognized me, knew where I lived, and just, well, connected in a blizzard at dusk…

I am Home. Like “It’s A Wonderful Life”‘s Jimmy Stewart, who found himself in Bedford Falls, despite any plan or mission to be there, it is the place I have come to be, despite the fact I was not born here. George Bailey was born in Bedford Falls, desperately wanted to leave, but could not, then realized that it was Home. He was in a place of love, despite himself.

I turn out to be George Bailey. Without a plan, without a mission, I am just here – in a pretty normal, small town place, maybe suburbia, maybe just a town. But in 34 years, I have become, somehow, part of it. It has become a part of me.

I never asked for it, or was anything asked of me – I just try and tried to do the right thing. I just ended up here. And will end up here.

The End

January 1, 2018

Everything around us ends. This day will end. Every building I design will cease to exist at some point. I have a shelf life. The molecules that make up my body will reorganize as they have since The Big Bang untold time ago.

Sometimes The End comes when our control is reduced to the point where there is only one last thing that is left to us: that molecular organization.

Today is the end of another year. But it is also the beginning of another rotation of the place I am on around the sun. Our sons are done with graduate school, but will always be our children long after all our molecules have reformed.

When lives end, only memories are as alive as the dead used to be. When the dead were mysteries in the lives they were intimately involved with, time replaces knowledge with those memories. And, maybe, understanding – or at least the conclusions that we can live with.

It is only now, after 3 months of thought I think I have a description of why, and maybe how my sibling died.

It was natural that the mid-century lives of my parents could be understood as shaped in the Depression, War, Booze and Denial that made so many decisions in their lives sad and damaging. But they did things in the world and had beginnings that made those things remarkable, unlike their deaths.

My parents essentially died of well-worn bodies. Scores of years of smoking, untold gallons of alcohol, virtually no exercise made death in their late ‘70’s and early 80’s a testament to genetics and luck.



My brother died this year a decade earlier in his lifespan than his parents. He had become my sister in the last 15 years of her life, and I fully expected her determined absence from any contact with me to proceed for at least as long as our parents. She smoked, drank and drugged when I knew her as him, and I had no reason to think those long established habits had stopped.

Her passing happened without even the months of warning that the debilitation my parents gave us. I simply was called by the police and told that her body was found in her house once a co-worker alerted them that she had simply not shown up for work: a completely unprecedented absence: According to her coworker, she never called in sick, let alone simply failed to show up as required by her work schedule.

In the tumult that followed I found, unsurprisingly, that my 67 year old sister had no will, had no verbal instructions for disposition of her worldly goods, nor any clue as to a health condition that led to her death. Similarly a once deeply committed life in the Episcopal Church as a Sexton, then dedicated “Churchman” considering devotion to the Order of St. Andrews, even her transgender-presenting participation in full clerical robes 15 years ago in NYC’s Gay Pride Parade was gone as a place in her life.

What was left were two things: her work and her home. Neither were a point of creation: she was a Bus Dispatcher for a transit company and had a two family house.

But both places had special people: her tenants took care of every aspect of the property except my sister’s two floors and they had a lovely child and had been there over a decade. Her co-workers, only known to me at her funeral I arranged, came 100 miles to be there at her interment: they loved her: but had no clue how she lived or had lived before they knew her.

Into this binary world I was dropped by responsibility, as I had been to be the Executor of my parent’s estate. Initially, with a home involved, I tried to determine if there was anybody, any entity, that might get her residual assets. None could be found.

Random access to paper checking statements showed scores of monthly Amazon billings, and a small balance. The tenant said his cash monthly rent was simply given to the town by my sister to pay the $10,000 annual property taxes.

She never, ever, had locked her house. So when the police collected her body on Oct. 2, they locked the door behind them, but there was no key. I was left to break into the locked house with the police: and upon breaking in, it was, as warned, a hoarder home.

The access point, the living room window, revealed two other things besides endless bags, Amazon boxes and no visible floor: First she had not been on that floor in 7 years as the top layer of unopened mail had that date on them and filled every horizontal space in the kitchen: and that the stair access was completely blocked off – 8ft deep and to the ceiling – so the way to the second floor, where she came to live, was only by the locked front door.


So I needed a locksmith. I hired one, met him, he rekeyed the lock and I was there, alone, on a Saturday morning. Upon gaining access to the stair, I found virtually no current mail, or floor beyond small areas of each tread going up to the place where she slept.

The results were mystifying:

Lights and fans on, after several weeks.

A sea of bags, filled with somethings, boxes, stacked items, remnants of organization under this sea in the form of supporting furniture.


No smell – no organic garbage, no cigarette butts – which where everywhere in other places I had been where my sibling had lived.

No current mail.

No dirty clothing: no female clothing at all – just a few hanging older garments.


Her bed was a mattress on the floor. Covered all but an island of mattress surface.


The stair to the attic was completely blocked by 6ft of stuff, and the other bedroom was similarly filled almost to the ceiling.

Most distinctly daunting was that the bath had a full 3 or 4 feet of stuff piled at its threshold: upon ascending, it was clear, all too clear, that there had not been a use of the space, in any way, for years: no showering, no toilet use, no use at all. And no smell.


My head was reeling.

On a low bookcase top was some mail from perhaps August, fully 6 weeks before my sister had been found dead in the space. But there were old, years old, unopened envelopes from me and my other sister left on top of those newer unopened mailings. And a wad of keys.


But there was one letter. Opened. From me to my bother: a mailing from 7 years ago, of a magazine that had my work in it: where the form letter, sent along to others, personalized – it had my handwriting upon it: above my signature, after the description, I had crossed out “All Best” that was there for everyone, and wrote, in red, “Love”.

It was meant for me to find.


“I am going home to do some things around the house.” Was what my sister told her co-workers on September 30 at noon. She would be back for her second shift at 6 that evening.

Two things had never happened before, happened that day: My sister clearly had never, ever, done anything “around the house” before, and she had never, ever, not shown up for work.

And, she had not died before that day, either.

What did these things mean? I took all the letters I could find, all unopened and left.

Upon opening I found what I have come to believe is true.

From the summer, months ago, was one of the many letters from the City of Peekskill, all unopened. They were mostly parking tickets. But one stated a conclusion in stark terms, that I verified in a series of phone calls:

My sister stopped paying her property taxes four years ago.

The bill was at $41,000 and it was growing and she never responded to any request for any communication. Recent unopened bank statements had shown that the balance in her account was dwindling to nothing between paychecks.


All of her bills except property taxes, were paid electronically from her checking account. The rent cash that had been her taxes was somehow used to support a life that needed only restaurant food, only new clothes in lieu of washing ones, and to pay for whatever else she consumed.


Given that, the house was to become the property of the City of Peekskill, Monday October 2, 2017, the day they found her body at the home, the home the city now owned as of that day.

The End.

The last measure of control in a life that had seen so many efforts to prove a son’s worth to his parents, failed grades, degrees, relationships, careers, religion, even his birth gender identity. But this last failure, the financial failure of what was her last measure of control, was her final place of control.

She ended her life – somehow – on the day she knew the life she led could not go on.

7 years ago she stopped using her kitchen. Then 4 or 5 years ago, her bathroom. Then she simply bought clean clothes, never doing laundry, but discarding the dirty items.

She lived in 3 places: Work, Home, and where she ate and bathed/cleaned up/whatever.

When The End was clear as a point in time, Oct. 2nd, the day the house was no longer hers as a place to discard the things she could control by throwing them into her rooms, she went home from work that Saturday, September 30, midday:

She removed all the cigarette butts (there must have been millions)

She removed all soiled clothing (if they had ever been there)

She removed any food anything (if there was any)

She removed all recent anything, mail included.

She found my note: she set it under a table lamp.

She left this world, knowing I would find it.

She did not care about anyone now finding the world she had created and controlled even though no one – no one – had ever seen it but her – the bags, boxes, piles of used Q-Tips, papers and bits – because she, the creator of that world, would be gone.

She created The End.


Polymathmatics In The New Year

December 28, 2017

IMG_0648We live our lives by measureables. We should not: we can never measure up: I was disappointed that I cannot crack the top articles list on one website, and am inordinately thrilled I am continually one of another’s “Favorite Podcast List”

Children through school, wife working more than full time, house in steady state, as is the office building, the measureables most often rotate about my architectural office. There is never enough money. But it’s more than that.

There are those who say Karma, or Justice or even Fairness should govern outcomes: I do not see that. I see effort that does what can be done, but often, most often, there is always a “better” outcome that I fail to obtain. The greatest football player, probably ever, Jerry Rice, was asked what his “Most Memorable Play” was in his All-Pro Career: He responded that it was any one of the many plays he cannot forget where he failed: Where he let his teammates down. I get that.

In this way, measurables almost always fail: Performance is by nature always inadequate to potential. Perception almost never registers to reality in our lives. Someone is always better than you. Someone is always worse than you. If any triumph or failure proves anything it’s that basing any conclusions around stats ultimately fails to measure much of anything.

But by any measurable this year, 2017, was a year of numbers.

First, the firm I created is 30 years old.

I co-authored a book, my 8th, published this year.

I served my first year as one of the 6 elected lay person “Mission Council” members of the Episcopal Church in Connecticut.

At the Spring Equinox, 9 months ago, I spent 100 hours and our insurance paid nearly $60,000 to find out one vein had a faulty layer of tissue at its middle and I had high blood pressure.

That meant I lost a meal a day: down to one, maybe 1,500 calories (down 500-1,000 given I killed other things I ate).

I work out 90 minutes a day, not 45-60 as I had -burning 200 calories more a day.

I work out 7 days a week, up from 5-6 before burning perhaps 1,000 more calories a week.

So Far, I lost 25% of myself, after a decade where I had gained 2/3 of 1/3 of myself that I had lost 10 years ago – I have 1/10 left to go.

So far, my form is close to its decade old minimum, though the weight is still a stone-plus higher, as the extra workout has the reduced dimensional presence is heavier with muscle…

Because I did those things and take 3 blood pressure regulating pills a day I went from 165/80 BP, and 60 heartbeats a minutes at the hospital, to 118-133/60-70 BP AND 47-51 heart beat. Oh, and I test those things now.

A month later I became one of 3,000 designated “Fellow”‘s in the AIA. Now I just have to pay for it.

16 hours after that event in Florida I gave a full-on presentation before 400 involving God & Architecture in NYC

Before that, I had become a staff contributor to Mockingbird: a truly terrific site that grapples with making Faith part of life:

My sister died, without will, without any connection to anyone I knew. We buried her, who had been him, who probably ended her own life.

I was put on the faculty of “Building Beauty” a Masters program in Sorrento, Italy.

My Blog, Saved By Design had over 15,000 separate visitors, viewing almost 25,000 pieces, on one day approaching 1,000 visits. All records..

A thing I did and wrote about became two exhibits – one being honored as one of 11 “curated” exhibits out of the over 200 presented

I finished a house that was started a decade ago, and finally built the field houses designed back then,10 years ago, too.

I started a series in the Hartford Courant called “House Hell”.Htfd Holy Holes

I got fired as “Design Czar” at the New Haven Independant because somehow the fact I had not lived in New Haven for 38 years, and write for the New Haven Register, fully known, became a deal breaker.

I was invited to crit at Yale after a decade: I have no idea why, but there is a new Dean.IMG_2316

As said, my office has, this year, gotten through 30 years I celebrated by re-creating the website as a swap for services with a graphic artist – I am helping with her house: she created the site.
DDA 30 years hi res
The practice has ridden through through 4 recessions, including the entire last decade. There are, continually, about 50 projects a year in the office, 20 new each year: but these years there are smaller projects, fewer paying projects, and more cost in getting the commissions. But there are 5-6 employees, the usual, down from 7-8 in boom times. But never a layoff. 1,000 met payrolls, never missed. No increase in my credit line debt. And I still own my own building.

But the biggest revelations are two simple truths based on 30 years of reality:

I have grossed $10,000,000 in fees over these 30 years.

I have donated $1,000,000 of hard costs for pro bono work for not for profits.

Is that good or inadequate? I guess it just is.


December 26, 2017


A whole new world was created when Christmas was popularized by the mass published “A Christmas Carol”. In Industrial Age England, the middle class who could buy and have the time to read that era’s high tech communication revolution, publishing was a phenoninal change in English culture.

This growing middle class grew to love children as sacred gifts, versus often short-lived necessities as medicine improved. Owning a place to live in that you loved was not just for the rich. The very reason that you had time and education to read Dickens’ book spoke to the change where subsistence living faded and leisure diversions were possible.

Servants were possible too. Usually migrants from other, less urban, places in Britain. Of course other, new, trades replaced the artisanal culture of most households where you made what you used. Those trades sold you the things the family used to make.

People might forget the Revolution part of the Industrial Revolution when it comes to the society that kicked it all off. So in the newly festive and celebrated Christmas holiday, often centered around the newly beloved offspring, there were new folk that you dealt with to create the life you wanted. With all the other changes there was time to make that life fuller than subsistence coping – gifts are possible in this new commercial world.

Beyond the family, you could extend Christmas to your servants, your tradesmen, your shopkeepers. The day after the Feast that celebrated the Birth of Christ became the day those gifts were given in 19th century England. Those gifts were given in boxes: so the day after Christmas became Boxing Day.

Boxing Day is a metaphor for me – and our family. A family went outside their life together to touch mine. The gifts given to us beyond that family almost 50 years ago extended beyond genetics with a generosity and Grace that passes all understanding.

Their act of kindness came to me when Christmas at my genetic family’s location was sometimes necessary, but never joyous. In the full flower of time Christmas went beyond metaphor into a literal Boxing Day ritual. Neither my wife and my families were places of happy connection, so before children we went up to visit that family, then, post children, found ways to connect. Then for the last 20 years we travelled up to Vermont to be with a family that effectively saved my emotional life in Buffalo in the 1970’s.

That trip was a place fraught with rituals. We make a high-ethanol fruitcake about the size of the Baby Jesus in weight and bulk. Obsessively wrapped presents, baked goods, often other elements of our lives were shared. We took the full 3 hours up and back in the day, no matter what the weather.

The focal point of this effort, the Matriarch & Patriarch are the center of several families’ love and attention at these Boxing Days. We admired the Patriarch so fully that we named our eldest son after him. Soon the children became a huge focus of the day: but we all grow older. Now young men and women have replaced the kids, and the adults are now, well, old: me included. We loved them unconditionally, so the visit was a joy.

But age is unforgiving, unrelenting, and change happens. This year the huge trip by the eldest from Buffalo to Vermont proved just too much – even with a child chauffeur. The huge trip of their 90-plus years has an arrival, as all trips do. That arrival draws nearer, so near that in the brief phone call that replaced today’s trip, it only took a few words to recount the joy of taking a few steps, and the exhaustion that ensued.

Just as our first Boxing Day 20 years ago was not the first ever, this change will not be the last. Fragile youth become forceful adult. The fit people become feeble. The able cope.

The only constant is love.

At all the stages devotion is there – real despite ritualization. The Baby Jesus Fruitcake arrives this year in Buffalo to greet the gathered family. There will be other tokens, necessary words, but also deeply felt truths.

Change is life: hard, bad, good: Had their daughter not sat next to me on the Niagara Frontier Transit Bus in 1970, I would not know any of this. But she did. In that act, I believe God sat next to me – a coping bag of doubt and damage. That tiny act of positive regard, exploded into thousands of moments, words, efforts of love over the last 47 years. I met my wife through her, we had children in coincidental years, I have helped their extended families to build scores of things in many places.

The Patriarch and I have mothered their beloved Adirondack house through 30 years of changes, repairs and evolutions: a shared awe of the building architect’s vision, but for me, there was the deepest love of the building arts and the resonant joy of expressing yourself in a home. It was a connection we had that choreographed our passions but also applied our skills in the seminal good of harboring a family.

That family comes together on Boxing Day back in Buffalo today: with our lifelong friends we have sent our box: with our versions of Frankincense and Myrrh and the fully swaddled Baby Jesus Fruitcake. The Patriarch loved it so much that over the years he would send my wife and I (who effectively co-authored the cake in a multi-day effort) the last bit of cake taped to a card in March or April, as its size and preciousness were carefully managed by him.

That bit is with me today. It was saved to be shared, just like me. We can all simply live in our lives, many do. But we can also love. We can live beyond the safety of isolation. But even gifts are given, they are offered and accepted – those gifts are risked, and sometimes fail. But some gifts change things for everyone involved, in ways no one knew, let alone intended.

I was not Tiny Tim, but I was not in a good place 47 years ago. By showing a lumpy 15 year old kindness a life was nurtured beyond the meal, or gift, or conversation. I cannot repay that love in person today. But I can send a box on Boxing Day.
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