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Welcome to Saved by Design

July 7, 2020

New Stuff:

In Emily’s Days: Coda

In Random Stuff: The Bounty Crop of COVID19

In Home Page: HOME In A Change Time

In Absence: Easters

In Left To Myself: 21 Tackles

In Not (As) Fat: One Meal A Day

In Finding Home: Justification

In The Rules: Architecture and The Failed Model of Genius

In Silence In SpringFlaw Flourishes

In Days ’till Spring: 40 Days


July 7, 2020


In Mockingbird: Justification, Work, and Me: A Parable of River Jack Stones

In Common Edge: The Utter Folly of Certainty in Uncertain Times

In New Haven Register: Thankful for a trade’s essential reality

In CT Insider: The ‘essential’ realities of architecture during the pandemic

In Mockingbird: God Never Left, We Just Didn’t Know He Was There

In Common Edge: Architecture and the Illusion of Control

In CT Insider: The terrible beauty of living on the shore

In Mockingbird: Lean On Me

In CT Insider: Extending home into garden while in quarantine

In Mockingbird: At Sea

In ArchDaily: Architecture’s Vernacular In A Post-COVID-19 World


Recent Images


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.



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


21 Tackles

July 7, 2020

It was 1972, in the Greater Buffalo Area.

At a private day school, the world changed. Scholarships that gave their tiny football team enough talent to win, ended. The little league that the school dominated, ended. Not much was left. Except I was the Co-Captain of that team that year.

If you fully engage in anything, you pretty much know how good you are. I knew this senior year was it for me in football – what I loved would end. I could function as the typical high school lineman, and that is about it.

I never made it to 5ft 11in. and I weighed under 190 pounds. My best 40 yard time was 5.5 seconds, but at least I was not the slowest person on the team in 1972.

But I loved (and love) the game in all it’s noble viciousness – enough to coach it in later years. But in this time, football had a central place. In the regular absence of my mother or my father’s full time absence – fully bathed in alcohol – the sacrifice on the field meant everything to me.

So when that world became threatened, the coach and my co-captain and I soldiered on, with a couple of pick up games and playing the now combined squad of two teams we regularly defeated. It wasn’t much, but it was something. It was probably more than the Pandemic Season has for most students doing any organized effort.

We practiced (which I loved) and my father realized that he had never seen what I had devoted my non-graded life to for the last 4 years. So he made the first non-holiday visit to see one of our few games that year – a 350 mile drive.

That senior year I was regularly used as a defensive lineman and a center on offense. The Thursday before the Saturday game, the coach pulled me aside. “We need you to play middle linebacker”. I shrugged, in 1972, there was not much to know.

‘”They are just going to run, and if you are in the line, that helps us in one place, if you are behind the line, you can help us in more places.” Part of me laughed. We were so bad that my slow speed still meant that my devotion enabled me to be better than the others who practiced. And they would not pass.

We hit the field, my father in a trench coat and a hat, with perhaps 100 other spectators. And we got the kickoff. We had several good players and one was our running back, who went on to play for 4 seasons at Union College. First snap, I drop-step cross-blocked with the guard (also good) and popped the back, who broke a tackle and went 60 yards for a touchdown,.

We were “offsides”. The play was called back. That was the only thing resembling a touchdown we had that shortened year.

So the game went on. Four twelve minute quarters. And we punted, often. The other team had a great back too (they still had scholarships), and he carried the ball over thirty times.

The triumph was that we held them to 3 touchdowns, and only lost 21-0.

The weirdness was that my positioning helped. Over thirty times I either tackled that back or helped others do it, Never for a loss. Usual ending up on my back. I never left the field, as we had so few players, so my father was able to see me play, for one day.

The following Monday I went to the Head Coach’s office for the weekly meeting with my co-captain, and the Team Manager was putting up the Game Stats on the bulletin board. Bleak. Except one line,

“Tackles: Dickinson 11 Solo, 20 Assists.”

“You set the record, if we had one” the Manager said. “The Assists count as 1/2 tackles, so you got 21 tackles. I think the previous high was 17.”

As anyone who knows football knows, this means the team was pretty bad. Other people should have been there before I could have been there, but weren’t.  We were bad. I was just less bad that day.

“You were good,” My father said after the game. “We sucked.” was my reply. And we did. But we played. It was a gift. It was the only time my father saw me do anything in high school and college, except for my graduation next spring. His presence had to have meant something, but I only remember how bad we were.

The coach retired that year. The new coach revived the team for a decade, they were better so no more “21 Tackle” games by anyone. Then the school ended football. They built a gym in our field, where they now have (private school) all state championship basketball teams. And a player in the NBA.

So I am pretty sure that I hold the team record for the number of tackles in a game for The Park School of Buffalo. If there is a record.

The Bounty Crop of COVID19

July 1, 2020

I am sickened of the anger.

Hate is exhausting.

Humorless, offended, righteous, anger judges all but itself because it denies any perspective but it’s own.

Hatred towards what is not done.

Hatred for what is being done.

Hatred for who is doing what is being done.

Hatred for what has been done.

Angry predictions from our fears are unrelenting to the point where hope is hated as deception and ignorance.

It distorts my mind in response, but in this period of sequester there are few distractions from it. Any screen is screaming. Forget the content, it screams.

The flip side is only sleep. And turning the eyes inward, that means dreams, now the bounty crop of COVID19. Dreams are now so vivid, so compelling they break you from sleep like a collision with something: What?

So real, so intricate that the thought that these dreams are tiny electro-chemical creations is simply inadequate. Memories, fears, observations, projections casually float through your inert slumber until, BANG – the explosion of terror, fear, or just dread and loathing.

These mutations of COVID19 are everywhere, and there is no vaccine for that either. We may becoming intimate with our homes, but we are also close-dancing every night with our minds. Not the thinking mind, but the fearing one – bathed in fear, suckled on anger, the night terrors of a screaming season are harder to take with every sweaty drenched pillow.


June 27, 2020

Pedestals are what humans make to put what is above us. The icon set there is focal, if not reality. Reality, it turns out, is complex.

Humans want many things, but they are often in conflict. Generations after those who fought the Civil War fought it, those who did not fight it made pedestals for those who did, to create icons. As Italian immigrants to America missed the Nina, Pinta, and Santa Maria by 400 years, they made pedestals to who they felt embodied their own American Heroism.

History is not what we make it, it is what it is. Like gravity, simulating a reality with a cantilever that appears effortless just handles the same weight as a column would at the end of it. History is not changed by making pedestals or removing sculptures from them. History is just there. Just some choose not to address parts of it that are too painful, or made up.

Increasingly we either have naked pedestals or removed sculptures. Everyone wants safety, but everyone also wants freedom, too. Everyone wants justice, but everyone wants protection as well. We want to embody our best selves but can not deny our worst fears. We want to control, but in the end, our end, we have zero control.

I try to make things that have what life gives us, not just the parts we can control. Flat roofs simply leak – so are they roofs? But if a pitched roof is rubber stamped from all the other roofs everywhere around it, is it thoughtless? Thoughtful pitched roofs are hard: to express the compass, the weather, wind and water, and decades of extreme wear, roofs have unending excuses to justify leaks or dumbing down to become what has been before, elsewhere.

Why can’t roofs be both safety of use and freedom of expression?

Why do we need pedestals of self justification to support our rationales? Pain is part of history, as is joy. Being human is the opposite of being perfect. To be human is the essence of adaptation in response to failure. Why hold anything up to a standard of the perfect and distort what our pedestals venerate?

History is not composed it just is.

History is the deeply flawed, not excused, not reinvented – history just is. Fallingwater is a wonderfully expressive building, but it leaks and sags, because it pretends that water and cantilevers will not feel the effects of gravity. All those pedestal toppers, like the perfect bridal couples atop wedding cakes, are, at best, hopes, not the complicated, misunderstood, often painfully flawed people that they represent.

But we want perfection.

We want leakless flat roofs, cantilevers without gravity. We want Fallingwater.

But it leaks and sags. What is left are our pedestals, our feet of clay, our recognition of the unavoidable gravity of history that makes either posing righteousness or retrospective righteousness telling partial truths.

Because we cannot eliminate what we feel is not safe, nor can we assume freedom is only ours and nobody else’s.

It’s complicated.


June 25, 2020

As I receive my meat, I turn from the butcher and a pair of eyes in front of me, like mine over a mask, squint and an unseen mouth barks, “WRONG WAY”. I do my best imitation possible of Gayle Sayers and pivot my 64 year old body in the Right Direction.

A national TV host says that she and her husband go out in their car to search for those not wearing masks, and then report them to the police, and then trade on that in an interview as evidence of her righteousness,

Someone who has had the virus and has antibodies, will not see anyone – with masks, distancing, all of it – because “They do not know it is not contagious”.

The methods work: where we are, Connecticut, has several of the top 10 cities in the country for minimizing infection. We are a land founded by Puritans, here in New England, and now the New Puritans mean fewer of us get infected, and nationally deaths trend down every day.

There are no answers, yet. No meaning. Yet. Only observations.

HOME In A Change Time

June 22, 2020


The flurry of articles exploding on our screens on “The New Architecture of COVID19” is all trees, no forest. And for good reason: we don’t know where the forest is growing, dying, or being cleared, let alone the tree species. We are in full Myopia Mode during a change time. In an effort to simulate perspective every day is a Groundhog Day of “experts” on the Internet.

Think of this the beginning of a social Ice Age: we can sense that the temperature is changing (no hand shakes, let alone hugs). Some familiar animals are vanishing (offices are empty, people more often work from home). Centering our lives around a social existence, where people have to be together to work or live, has, for many, ended.

Things in Sequestration have socially ripened to have gone beyond shock and adaptation, to, perhaps, thinking about what has changed beyond coping. Are we seeing things differently? If so how? How will this affect what we build in the future, especially homes?

What does that shift in perception mean in terms of the home? Will it change? Will where we make them change? Are we redefining sustainability to include our personal sustainability, beyond the existential, but distant, perception of climate change? If so, what is the connection, synergy, cross-pollination of our perception of future life in the COVID/Climate Change niche of survival?

This month, HOME PAGE has three thought leaders who offer perspective, rather than predictions. Ann Sussman teaches at the Boston Architecture Center and conducts intensive investigations of how humans perceive the built environment. Mark Alan Hewitt is a writer, preservationist, and an architect whose trenchant thoughts have a perspective that calls into question how and why architects create buildings. Martin Pedersen is the Editor of the Common Edge Collaborative, for all the rest of us on HOME PAGE this week, and his view during the whiplashing cross currents of this complicated time is especially valuable.

Forget about conclusions: Lets understand where we are first: since it’s changing every day, it’s necessary, if frustrating.

Will This Plague Outlaw Smoking?

June 20, 2020


There may be 200,000 people killed in America by COVID19 this year. Each one was in contact with something or someone that transmitted a disease that infected millions upon millions of us. We tried to outlaw that contact. It had an impact, as there were projections of ten times more of those who ended up being killed by the plague.

I was fully masked, distanced, waiting to buy my Diet Coke at the height of sequestration in March – as I had to travel .5 miles to be alone in my office every day, as I still do. The woman in front of me, in a mask, fully distanced, ordered a pack of cigarettes.

500,000 Americans die of smoking cigarettes every year. 10% of them do not actually smoke, but breath others’ smoke.  Cigarettes are legal. They make money for every level of the the governments that fully shut down our country and created 40,000,000 unemployed.

Who knows if smoking weed is a gateway drug – but it is as unnecessary as tobacco, or handshakes, and may wreck some lives. And it is being legalized. Millions of lives are ruined, some ended, by alcohol. We tried to end that about a century ago. And we could not sustain removing an unnecessary substance from our lives.

We accept all those deaths of all those unnecessary things that we could try to outlaw. But we do not outlaw those we could, and make legal those killers we cannot successfully outlaw. But, this season, we outlawed essential human acts in order to save lives.

It is a strange time.




June 17, 2020

“…man is not justified by the works of the Law but through faith…”

(I moved 7,000 pounds of River Jack rock over 8 hours this weekend.)

Saul of Tarsus may have been the best press agent ever. In a letter he said the words above. I somehow find that talk hard to walk. In a sea of freak, the first century Roman occupation of the Middle East, he worked for the then-Nazi’s and made a living by imposing the will of The Law of the Victor over the Vanquished.

Until that small seat of personal power was suddenly realized as being meaningless, even evil. Not falling into his cup of wine in dissolute despair, or even using his ill gotten gains whoring around in moments of purchased ecstacy, he realized that he was an ass.

I moved 7,000 pounds of River Jack rock over 8 hours this weekend.

We created The Barn of Fun at our house about 15 years ago, after 5 years of construction. A bunch by me. But you could say that an architect making a place for his home is all about “me”. Sure.

Like everything else swimming in my head, how our box touched the ground was great in my mind towards the end of its creation. It had to be gravel (I had learned over the last 20 years that nothing grows in the deep, rocky shade.)

So I went to a gravel place, There a box of “River Jacks” was compelling. Harvested from river beds, River Jacks, “Rounds”, or Water-Washed Stones are similar to the interlocking boulders that essentially make our glacial morraine site. Frozen water moved those boulders to our site, and many tumbled across 1,000’s of miles over 100,000’s of years by glacial creep, as the world grew colder, and the weight of the frozen water grew.

The stones were along for the ride, so when the earth began to warm up 20,000 years ago, the frozen water melted, and the smoothed boulders dropped onto a landscape scraped free of soil before it – that dropped to make Long Island. So the well-travelled stone is in micro-allusion with River Jacks. These smaller rocks are small enough to be taken away by the rushing flow of rivers. They are gathered along the river’s course until they drop to form the river bottom’s bed. Like the Glacial boulders there are many different types of stones – sedimentary, igneous even volcanic (with an occasional spice of brick thrown in).

Like the glacial moraine stones River Jack are both a catalogue of type, but also a display of time as the stone sometimes reveals ancient plant or animal life offered up when erosion has removed the rock that had encapsulated them, and turned them into part of the rock.

These rocky acts took no faith, just gravity and water. They happened without man even knowing that they happened. But the same useless drive we have to know “why” these rocks are where they are, or even why they are, is great with me, every day.

It is a time where our rivers of life are pretty much frozen, the glacier life of unrelenting and frustratingly slow progess to eventual freeing is the COVID19 Sequestration.

So, in Sequestration, I have renovated the decaying walls our our home’s bath, fixed the failing finish on another bath’s wooden floor. painted two doors and three windows  – and every plant has been planted, and, even, gasp – tended. My lawn never gets too shaggy, the damaged walls in our home have been compounded and painted.

I Justified Sequestration.

Well, until the bare dirt-filled 15 year old River Rock demanded attention. I could pay cash to have someone do the work, as I had to trim the trees. But no. The internet complied, and I thought I had found the right stuff and ordered. Three times more than was needed. Sent as 2-3 inch stones rather than the 1-2 inch stones that I had ordered.

So I enlisted my Sequestion Sentenced son and we separated the dirt filled existing stone from its clogging earth so that we had perhaps half a yard’s worth of correctly sized stone for reuse where people walk.

Then two days of 100 wheel barrow deliveries and settings of stone (too big to really be “gravel”) in about 15 places. At the close of work was a dinner. I was done on time. I fulfilled the 15 year legacy. I walked the talk. And I was not sore, just a little stiff, and suffered one contusion that, this morning, seems to have healed.

I was justified by my acts.

But once done I knew that this was all about me. Others may appreciate the work in passing (especially when I thump my chest) but what I fixed really wasn’t broken for anyone but me.

And God made all those things. He made the thing that these things came from and are set into, first by water, then by me. He made me.

I do not have the instinctive Faith of most fish’s gills, Like our lungs, the mechanisms of our bodies which inflate and expell the gasses needed to live, with no thought on our part, and no effort (until you have COVID19.) But a few fish (sharks) need to move to push the water through their bodies, over the gills that get oxygen to live. They swim to live. Survival by acts.

Why am I shark? Why did Saul of Tarsus give up the Power Play Life? Why did he pivot to become St. Paul?

Why can’t I stop being a shark?

Well, God made me a shark. That’s why. He made Saul of Tarsus, and he made St. Paul.

Now I have to fill the pothole in my office driveway.

Taking The Civil Out Of Civil War

June 12, 2020

A good logo can permanently mark a brand.

Wars end some things, but they do not change what loses, they change the losers’ status from threat to defeated. Since World War 2 wars have not been salvational, but they have often had strange results. A unified Vietnam. The realization that certain weapons never existed in Iraq. Legalized marijuana.

But World War 2 had its share of unintended consequences. Britain won, but ceased to be a world power. Europe lost its religion. Russia rose to control a huge portion of the world after helping to free it. But the brand of Nazism was destroyed.

That brand had one of the most effective logo’s ever, the ancient Swastika and World War 2 literally blew it up, along with Japan’s Rising Sun.

But some wars end without ending the reason for the war, just crushing the power of one side. England had any number of wars before becoming fully Protestant. As each religion dominated, the other religion still existed, until Catholicism was left to mainland Western Europe. And Ireland.

You could say that slavery was the central reason for the Civil War. Or States Rights. But you could never say that the Civil War was fought against racism. Racism never lost the war, it was there before the war, before America, and is fully there these 155 years since.

Like Nazi Germany, the South had a powerful logo – The Stars and Bars. Unlike the Nazi’s Swastika, the Stars and Bars never left those who lost the war. Like the guns the losing rebels were allowed to keep, tolerance of the losers was part of ending a Civil War, between Americans, rather than ending a threat. The reintegration into the Republic fully accepted the cultures of all the states – including the Stars and Bars.

But this year things have changed.

The symbol of a lost cause is now, after 7 generations, is fully seen as conveying the loathsome disgust that facilitated the death of 500,000. Slavery was stopped, but what caused it, like the losing soldiers’ guns, was left with the defeated.

The weird Dead Ender logic of flying the Stars and Bars was never understood by those who were not of the south. The cheap brand of “Rebel” has had a life fully 160 years after its reason for existence was ended, but now that logo will be now be buried like the Swastika because of what it also conveyed – racism and dehumanization.

Will burning flags or toppling sculptures or removing plaques end the evils of hate? I doubt it. But humans act when their values compel them to. That is why there are wars. The values of the south were distilled into their extremely successful logo over a century after their loss in the Civil War.

It is now clear that the Civil War was more about war, like the war that ended Nazi power and logo if not their own history of inhumanity. The desire to have “One Nation Under God” became a framework to maintain the reason why slavery ever existed in the losing half of the War Between The States. “Reconstruction” did not change the South, it was a temporary occupation that ended after a generation.

A unified America helped end Nazism. Had the South won the Civil War, that might not have been the case. But until this year the loser in the Civil War was not a loser where they lost the war, they were victors in maintaining why they fought the war, their culture, a culture that made racism just as natural as life.

So natural that while slavery has been gone everywhere for those 7 generation, that “Rebel” logo and racism is everywhere, with only heinous realities raising their ugly heads to reveal that hatred is everywhere.

The Civil War ended in 1865. But the war with our inhumanity may not end any time soon.