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Welcome to Saved by Design

November 20, 2018

New Stuff:

In Random Stuff:  The Game

In Home Page: HOME @ Thanksgiving

In Left To Myself : High Holy Days

In Not (As) Fat: One Meal A Day

In Finding Home: The Virtue of Doing Hard Things

In The Rules: Between Rocks & Hard $$$

In Silence In Spring : Astonishing…

In Days ’till Spring : 40 Days

Advent Not

December 8, 2018

Christians and their secular simulators are in a frenzy. It is Advent. As in “almost happening!”. The “it” is the birthday of our Lord & Savior, Jesus Christ,

The simulators are not down with that. The Christ part of Christmas is kinda iffy for more and more of us, And that discomfort, despite my all-in faith in the undeniable reality of God (in fact Jesus) in my life – despite my best efforts – is legitimate. 

There are many totally pissed at the perpetration of religion being pushed  into their lives. They are sick of our society, however secular, co-opting their humanity into a matrix of myth and hypocrisy during this Consumer Fest. The creation of manufactured solemnity and/or joy in the form of ritual loses symbolism for many.

Worst is the “Holiday Season”. But if you are not a Christian, what is the holiday, actually? Ancient non-Christians knew so little that the loss of light was so scary, the fire of life-giving light going out, that when the earth wobbled back to an angle that allowed more light into the Western Hemisphere, humanity made every year start there.

So the idea that more light is good got miniaturized into 4 candles, each adding its light each week, where more human-made light was lit as more natural light waned, the Christian world made it into a greater symbolic hope of waiting for the birth of Jesus. The entire part of the Bible that recounted the person that had no human father being born of his human mother was woven into a whole month of ritual and symbol, dominating Christianity for an entire internally buttressing construction of directed anticipation.

Children love the legitimizing of greed, people love the music, the traditions, the breaking of pattern, and just an excuse to show love. All good.

But it’s not His birthday.

It is in the spring. By all accurate research and measure, the date this divinely conceived (in any way you want to interpret it) human came into this world is in three or four months. We, the other humans, control the presentation of His Divinity in a staged carefully crafted manipulation of our common love of light, and depression over its absence, that, to me, trivializes the overwhelming importance of who He was.

So we in the church-going world are mostly in denial. It’s going to be Christmas. We kill a tree, buy stuff and create a four week anticipatory “season”.

In my own life, a fully flawed family made all the flailing efforts at celebrating absurdly sad.

There was no happiness to manifest in any sense. That happiness did not exist for deep and complex reasons over several generations and made the desperate gloss of “The Holidays” weirdly perverse to the sad. My church is having a service that recognizes this misfit in so many lives.

If you are born into want, pain or fear, the fact we “should” be in the ‘Christmas Spirit” only makes things worse.

Manifest in this application of 4 candles, any number of theatric devices, carefully designed images, performed music all are produced to build to a birthday that should be celebrated (even if just in godless historic recognition) but simply did not happen on any day near Dec. 25.

Nothing is as real in my life as the love of God. Maybe that is why the pathetic patronizing of all of our humanity into a prefabricated complex based on the bait and switch of Solstice for Virgin Birth annoys me.

The Game

December 5, 2018

“They were marveling at their newly refreshed home over Thanksgiving. They are in the discovery mode we were in when we spent our first year in our new home. Seeing all your surprises, and chortling contentedly over them.”


So said a friend and client this morning about the interior I show here, where a lifetime or two in and existing space is made music with the forest of things those lives found. A home embraces the past, present and future of humans – via the episodic effort of others.

When we come together, not out of love, but of mutual utility, shared mission, getting things done, the effort often overrides the outcome. I look back and I see, now, many moments frozen in their time.

In the intensity of creation the joy is so deep it is often unnoticed. Untalking framers create a thing we draw, like these today, below. We all live a life that makes something out of unrelated bits. They make life from the smaller lives of the things they combine: like every life, but more joyous, to me, in some things.


In every team, every orchestra, class or institution, often families – the combination and creation of things is an effort of unknown exultation. A son played football, as I did. We both only begin to fully understand the miraculous loss of fear in becoming more than outprselves when playing was done. Another was in many orchestras – like his brother no more; and the memory of the unification in mission becomes evident in its absence.

The overwhelming connection and unspoken devotion is not assumed: it just is. The miracle of completely distinct things – humans, places, instruments, tools, sound, space, stuff all are made to be brought together, and are incoherent in their beauty until they are done.

Beauty in creation is lost on the creators, until they can look, see, hear, remember – and know it was not just effort, it was realization.

Heaven is a foolish focus. It is hope, but it simply is not here or now. Just like Hell. Anything we cannot disprove is possible, but why should I spend a minute about thinking of playing again, when I would be dead in one play? But I do. Everyone who has done these things, does.

Flashbacks of joy get more starting when the joy remembered is more distant, But dreams are as real as heaven is not in our lives.  Maybe heaven is that joy we cannot have. The continuous, unresolved effort that combines hope into making something. No age, no names, no money – just effort.

Playing, making, doing together: with no world to judge, grade, laud or troll. Just the effort, together, forever.

I know, stupid.

But without the memory of meaning we have no hope that life is sustainable. Beauty is the spice, but when it is ours, we feast upon it. Yesterday and tomorrow do not matter. Unlike encountering a result that is beautiful: a baby, a view, spring water, love, the joy of beauty in our common effort has a meaning that is lost until it is found.

Perhaps the silence of my youth in a group of folk joined in fear and anger made these things more special for me. But my joy in the making, revealed by its outcome, seems to be part of all of us.

High Holy Days

November 22, 2018


It was dreaded.

When I could not go to the retreat of school, it was the holidays – or the endless desert of summer. But summers were simply isolation in suburbia. Stranded in a place cars mattered and I could not drive one. It also mattered that we lived the correct life in that decade between sentience and going away to high school.

That presentation meant the gathering of the step-mother of my father, ignoring the mother of my mother and doing Thanksgiving and Christmas in a 5 week pressure cooker of fear and expectation (interchangeably on most every aspect).

My mother defrosted “The Butterball” (turkey), got the Pepperage Farm stuffing in its blue and white plastic bag, the Ocean Spray Cranberry Jelly, the Best variety of frozen peas (Green Giant?), the Pillsbury Instant Mashed Potatoes and, maybe, if we were lucky, “Cresent Roll” tubes to be popped, split, rolled and baked and then slathered in margarine.

She bought an A&P frozen Pumbkin pie to bake and the Cool Whip to cover it in, and, of course, watercress and its dressing made with “shake in the server” Good Seasons Salad Dressing packet of spices, and spent the morning assembling and heating – after a long week of polishing all the silverware and candlesticks and washing the linens – all only used in these High Holy Days.

There were technological adventures. The Sunbeam Electric Carving knife (I still have scars on two fingers on my left hand from a duel between my 8 year old self and my 13 year old brother) – the electrically heated cloth bag that set into a basket to warm, continuously, the cresent rolls.

The other roles were also heated. Resentment over doing everything from my mother, outrage that paying for everything was not enough by my father, and endless drinking, after 5: This time of year using a ”fine red wine” – the one that Orson Wells sold – never before its time.

We were to help and be silent. We did that. My sister was back from high school in the later years, Grandma Fanny was always picked up and dropped off, but the Core Four, my sibling and our parents and I, were in a constant stress convention.

When would what drink sent my father to another place?

Would that place be happy or angry? My memory was it was not happy.

The food was always “perfect”, the clothing always chafed. I could eat till stuffed that day without fear or guilt or being “outed” as the “Husky” boy my weight forced my mother to deal with at DePinnas.

I was dispatched from the suburban world like a shot to do to high school in Buffalo only to re-emerge in Westchester, where In these covenings I could deliver the reporting the distance facilitated, then college where “it made sense” to stay up there for Thanksgiving. Then the dinners with a girlfriend, then wife, reliving angst and edginess, all the while saying the right thing.

Things have changed. Now we cook like fiends one out of three years and still make all the gravy. But two other families effort a great good time, very far, in rotation from each other. Six offspring join us, with different fiends or, now, lovers, and the wines are quite fantastic.

I have learned that the non-violent, not traumatic demi-PTSD is fully embedded the younger it is inflicted. Since my rotational grind of suppression, fear, compensation and embarrassment started from birth and last through every visit with the now dead, I will never be done with it. I will taste the margarine, be amused at the ribbed cranberry log, and think of the fact that what should have been the happiest of times was a duty.

The obligation to be Happy lives on in Facebook and Instagram, Our expectations seem real enough to cause infinite disappointment when they fail, but I think it is simply less terrorizing because I am older.

Knowlege kills some fear. I still fear eating fish, but I know it will not be served. I know I did what I could, and my parents lead the life they chose.

The lives chosen for us did not really work. For me at least. By the time I was around they were in their 40’s the Thanksgivings and Christmases were shells of hopes from the first decade of failed efforting suburbia.

Like the simulations of cooking, then the pantomimed rituals of family ritual, the remnants of expectation were ashen before my father tried to drink them away, I learned that reality, even the failed gravy today (2 out of 3 still gets you in the Hall of Fame), is better than opening up the jar to heat up in the microwave.





November 20, 2018

Recent Work



Progress in Greenwich



 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: Architectural Criticism That’s Not Just For Architects

In Mockingbird: The Undeserved Vacation: The New Sabbath

In Mockingbird: Bedside and the Lord’s Prayer

In Common Edge: In the Era of Artificial Intelligence, Will Architecture Become Artisanal?

In Mockingbird: The Gift of Profanity

In Common Edge: An Architect’s Devotion and Determination is Often a Project’s Make or Break Factor

In Mockingbird: Violence & Faith

In Mockingbird: …Mistakes Were Made…

In Common Edge: What a New Botox Commercial Says About the Public’s Perception of Architecture

In Common Edge: Architecture Ignores History at its Own Peril

In Common Edge: Why Homes are the Original Architecture

In Mockingbird: A Letter of Recommendation

In Mockingbird: Nothing Means as Much

In Common Edge: Michelangelo’s Lesson: Specialization in Architecture is Not the Only Way



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


HOME @ Thanksgiving

November 19, 2018



This is about as early as Thanksgiving gets, just over 3 weeks into the 11thmonth. Thanksgiving, like July 4th, is an American Event (the Canadians already had theirs). It is also, somehow, spiritual without being overtly religious. Christmas and Easter may not be on the actual dates of Christ’s birth and death, and they have been fully grotesqued and revel in the down and dirty, but they are religious holidays. But Thanksgiving is both spiritual and national. And Domestic.

We all celebrate these days. And almost all of us celebrate at home, created or owned. Whether it’s creating a place of 20 people to eat, or pulling furniture around a TV to watch the Thanksgiving Football. Our kitchens become battlefields.  Cars fill driveways. Often people we hate are in our lives for a few hours.

Or we are alone.

Thanksgiving is a spiritual time where we connect with others and we connect to ourselves: and so where we are helps or hurts that connection.  Today we talk to 4 people who are doing Thanksgiving NOW, “Live on Tape”. Each of them has stories to tell: some of their day right now, others of what Thanksgiving has become.

Gail Lynch is British, aged 74 and came to US in 1969. Gail’s first thanksgiving was with American friends. She is now an American citizen and was married to an American in 1977. Gail has been the full-on Thanksgiving host and has cooked for a full house for over 40 years

William Hosley is a cultural resource consultant, social media expert, historian, writer, and photographer He was Director of the New Haven Museum and Connecticut Landmarks, a curator and exhibition developer at Wadsworth Atheneum, and organized major exhibitions. Bill knows where the history of our Thanksgivings, and his thoughts are needed in the chaos of the day.

Stephanie Lesnik is owner and farmer of Field House Farm in Madison. Mom of four and registered nurse, her devotion to growing food and sharing it is only matched for her full on hospitality: and the evolution of both the venue and menu is a great story.

Kate Bean is married to Mark with 4 children and 3 grandchildren in a blended family, that is extended to OVER 30 at Thanksgiving!. Kate is a clinical pharmacy pain management specialist practicing at Marcy Hospital in Springfield, Massachusetts, and conspires an event that is as delicious as the guest list!


November 18, 2018


“He says he is winning all the time. Who are you when you don’t win?”

Says Doris Kerns Goodwin on the “Morning Joe” TV. Show this week, speaking of President Trump.

Forget about politics. No trolling, snarking, self-righteousness allowed. Every one of us in our youth has been told with every “A” on a paper, and every “D” on a test that we are either validated or outed as completely worthless. These are not the small victories or disappointments of a loving and loved place in our family or culture – they are hard judgments because we are young.

But later, for many of us, maybe most, who have defined ourselves not by love but by demonstrating being lovable, failure is guaranteed. If perfection is the standard of lovability, you are doomed to an unloved life. If the world that defines you is limited to this very time, the actual evidence, the measurables, then the impossibility of living up to expectations – others’, yours’, the cultures’ – is inevitable.

We are judged by every bit of facts we encounter. Every paycheck, every gift, every look from a stranger conveys more than the moment, but is completely confined to it.

You could be fired in a minute, get cancer, lose a loved one: and if, like every President, every act is judged as evidentiary of a greater reality of who you are, then any break in your script, any flubbed line or wardrobe malfunction reveals that you just suck.

And others do like that. Because all of us register our place by the place of others – it is called jealousy or schadenfreude – and that confirmation of fear and hope is as shallow as we are, every day.

If the world conspires to reveal our worth or confirm our legitimacy or just celebrate or value, it can also display out terminal inability to perform. And it is terminal. The base line performance of life will inevitably get the “F”. Opportunity is not above validation or judgment – it is what you have been given to aspire for.

The last generation has exponentially increased all the measurables in our lives. We know the bits of our bodies that inevitably degrade, no matter how hard we work or how fortunate our circumstances. So the mocking, goading, reveling is all performed on a sinking ship of mortality. All the anger, joy, hate and devotions of the moment, of the Internet, are momentary.

There are but two constants, gravity and God – the rest is human judgment. And anything human is brewed in impossible subjectivity.

The hardest thing for anyone to swallow, especially Donald Trump, or you, or me, is that we are loved. Born in love. Loved in our essential reality. Not judged, abandoned, or because we are lauded or affirmed. In all the extreme complexity being discovered by science every minute of every day, there is no base reality revealed. The incomprehensible love of God evidenced by imponderable complexity is insane, and seemingly, for me, impossible to accept.

The noise of our passions, our grotesqueries, our follies is, in the end, meaningless. It is that undeserved, irrational love based on nothing but itself that Doris Kearns Goodwin discovered by the latest drama of current events.

If you live for winning, you will always fail. What then?