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Welcome to Saved by Design

January 12, 2021

New Stuff:

In Random Stuff: Sacred Space

In Home Page: 2021 HOME: Where Are We

In Absence: Easters

In Left To Myself: America

In Emily’s Days: Coda

In Not (As) Fat: One Meal A Day

In Finding Home: Work Is All We Have

In The Rules: Architecture and The Failed Model of Genius

In Silence In SpringFlaw Flourishes

In Days ’till Spring: 40 Days

News

January 12, 2021

READ:

In Mockingbird: Before Christ

In Common Edge: Paige Rense, Architectural Digest, and the End of 20th Century Architecture

In ArchDaily: 2020: The End of the 20th Century in Architecture

In Common Edge: Maquettes in Architecture: The Forgotten Joys of Model-Making

In CT Insider: Time travel at home in the winter of COVID-19

In Mockingbird: Work is All We Have

In CT Insider: Aesthetic concepts and their impact on charity homes in New Orleans and New Haven

In Common Edge: Architecture Misses Charles Moore

In Mockingbird: Can Zoom Be Sacred? The Architecture of God

In CT Insider: The blight fight in Connecticut’s neighborhoods

In ArchDaily: “Make It Right” Goes Wrong in New Orleans

In Mockingbird: On the Cusp of Humility

In CT Insider: Living in history and the old house appeal

In CT Insider: ‘Antique’ and ‘Modernist’ homes make for strange bedfellows

In Mockingbird: Beholding the Lilies of the Field

In CT Insider: ‘Pay for play’ sites remove human touch from architecture

                                                                                                             

Recent Images

 

                                                                                                             

 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.

                                                                                                             

WATCH:

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

                                                                                                             

Sacred Space

January 10, 2021

There is a “bank” in our local Super Stop. Really an ATM with humans in an alcove outside the cashier lines. It was robbed yesterday afternoon.

“Oh my God!” Was the response, repeated 100’s of times on social media. The shock was real and the fear was not just about lost money, but a lost sense of safety. This act was a violation of the one common place that the whole town uses at some time during the year, many several times a week. It is a part of our lives.

What is Sacred?

The rhythm we follow sets up expectations. We all felt threatened at the Stop & Shop every time we were there in early Quarantine, until months of masks, distance, even aisle shopper directions made a new pattern we felt safe with. Return to expectation.

We expected Notre Dame was a Beacon of Paris. Most of those seeing it burn had the expectation of permanence. That expectation was never true. Notre Dame was built and focused on God. Of course, Notre Dame is Sacred.

The United States Capitol was built to bring a country together, during a Civil War. Hundreds of thousands died to preserve that building’s purpose (or to end it.)

But Stop & Shop?

Well, we all now wear masks, not because we are following orders, but because we do not want to get or make others sick. We do not wear them to facilitate robbery, but it does. I have never known anyone who has ever gone to the bank at Stop & Shop. But it was a part of the pattern of our lives.

Patterns get disrupted, changed, ended. Our town and the shoreline east and west of it had a trolley, long gone, then some cars and some paved roads, then The Eisenhower Federal Highway System. The Town was a few thousand, then ten thousand. Now more. And lots of cars. And Stop & Shop.

When any pattern changes in how we must live – the trolley, the highway, the masks – we are, mostly, threatened.

When the Capitol, that has no function for almost all of us other than image, is invaded – albeit by a mob that is removed in three hours – many say a Sacred Space was “desecrated”. The Rioters are not just idiots damaging, even killing, others (and being killed), they are agents of evil, existentially threatening our lives. Unless we end their leader’s presidency in a week.

“Sacred” is the way we define what matters most in our values.

We value, more than everything, our lives. So a threat to our way of living, like the burglary, by the masked amid the masked at a Super Stop & Shop changes our sense of safety. We see our lives diminished by Notre Dame in flames. And the Capitol is a place of safety, of embodied national community – taken over by a mob. None of these breaks in our expectations are actually existential threats, but the expectation of permanence is ended in their violation.

Now if all religious buildings were set on fire, if robbers were robbing all the banks in Stop & Shops, or if there was a revolution that had a 2021 Fort Sumter at the Capitol there would be cultural threat. But the reality of fear is there in each place’s abuse by those who we cannot abide. The electricians at Notre Dame that created the fire threatened a place’s meaning. Robbers at Stop & Shop ended the Suburban Idyll of a safe life. And 3,000 clueless criminals decided to act out and their acts ended faith in our government’s control – physical and moral.

I think “Sacred” is so intimately experienced that it is tricky to define it beyond intention, location and who you are. Clearly to Christians, those who build a safe life, and to Americans, these violations are to Sacred Places.

A view from a pond in Vermont. The place where I can see our home in sunset. The sound of voices, together. These are Sacred to me. The devotions of those who made Notre Dame and the Capitol are the very best in us. But, to me, Fort Sumter and the Capitol are not Sacred. And neither is Stop & Shop.

I know (because I help make them), that buildings are wonderfully profane constructions, fully human. Places, beyond buildings, are made by use by us, not by design. A great architect I know feels the Sacred in Grand Central Station.

Is he wrong?

America

January 7, 2021

In 1976 I was 21, and visited DC. A beautiful woman’s father was a congressman, and he invited me to visit him. In another era the young woman and I might have married, and I deeply loved her family.

So I went to the Capitol.

No line, no frisk, not even a walk thru sensor. It was before the first attacks on the Trade Towers, 9-11, or any of the conflicts after the Vietnam War, which was winding down to a sad end of waste and death.

We met, it was starry-eyes by me, her father was a virtual hero to me. I was a mess, unsure of much beyond my place as a student in a crazy place, with wonderful people, like his daughter. I had a phantom family I rarely talked to, who really were sure that I was “fine.” In all the pre-boomer parenting ways I was feral, and nothing bad happened, despite some terrific dangers.

But that afternoon in DC was a moment before now and after then. 1968 was a full melt-down. Riots everywhere, every male was liable to join 500,000 others getting killed half way around the world for no understood cause. Richard Nixon had won a landslide, then, about to be impeached, left in a place of shame that may be impossible now.

Tiny numbers of anyone but white males, like me and my friend’s father, had little chance to do anything but watch. University cost $6,000 a year, all in. There were 7 TV stations in the biggest of cities and most people still had black and white sets. The Republicans were lucky to have 40% of either house in Congress, and never a majority.

And the empty Rotunda was beautiful.

Light streaming in thru the halo of clerestory dome-wrapping windows. It was a bit dusty, a bit dated, but it was a place that you knew had looked, smelled and sounded like it did in 1976 for the last century.

Now, huge additions have been made to keep out any but the screened, scheduled, scanned, and safe visitors. And yesterday the worst in us overwhelmed even this security simply to project themselves as angry into a place that was intended to focus hope in our ability to control.

But control was not there for women and any but the white men who were the residents of the Capitol in 1976. Control was not there for the millions of those drafted into fighting a war against those who might, or might not, threaten our country.

It was a calm moment of extreme denial.

Forget about politics, even race, or justice. Instead think of us. We all have enormous capacity to love, protect, give. But each of us hates, too. Each of us can be deeply angry and sore afraid, We are, now and every day, in denial of the worst fears in the hope of our faith that our lives matter.

But our worst fears cannot be denied. We act against those we fear, and people we trust to keep us safe are humans and kill people. People are judged by veneers and simply denied meaning other than “enemy.” We are humans, not our hopes.

We only have our being to guide beyond our intellect. Our being, our insane complexity of composition should let us know that the miracle of our existence is a full unmerited gift. But we, all of us, feel that we are owed more than existence. And we are.

We are each owed love.

But the humans do not always offer that. Because it is scary to be open to risk.

Instead, we create safe places, where we can feel that we are not threatened. Even though each of us has what threatens us already within us. We make places like the 1976 Capitol, where a century of System meant safety for a white male to visit another white male.

But we cannot escape our humanity. Richard Nixon played the stage of President very well, but he was deeply scared, angry and, well, the worst in us. And the mob that rioted the Capitol into the 21st Century yesterday is the worst in us too.

It is easy to hate. I hate something every day. It is hard to understand, or just to try to understand a thing that we are not. That understanding has a faith that what I am is not everything.

But in 1976, in the Capitol Dome, I felt in the presence of something much greater than me. That was shattered yesterday.

I Watched A Terrible Movie Last Night

January 2, 2021

And it wasn’t 2020. It was actually 2049.

Part of us revels in talking into a remote, clicking on a link and, VOILA – control. Although a remote control, it is still a moment of control. We see what we want, when we want. If we have electricity. If it works. And it could still simply suck.

An incredible effort of computer graphics, 3D printing, real prop production made the visuals stunning. A cast from other hit movies was promising. Apparently the movie was derived from a book not a marketing company. Masterminded by George Clooney, for heaven’s sake. It had the compelling trailer, like they all do.

It was awful.

Ponderous, pretentious, badly written, with endlessly self absorbed acting.

But we had no choice. In this hangover from 2020 this is our lives for a while. I wrote my fourth piece this week, probably ponderous and pretentious and badly written, started reading my first novel in years, ate a wonderful meal, eschewed booze after some wonderful diversions last New Year’s nite, and the 102 minutes felt like a punishment.

You dared to invent control? No, you do not control. It just is. You just try.

During this waste of time, came a text from halfway around the world. A son, who once watched a great deal of football (after playing it quite well) was thrilled to see live humans doing it on his screen. After not seeing much, the images were exhilarating “the things I took for granted.”

As Joni said, you do not know what you’ve got until it’s gone.

One huge level of control we had has gone missing. Despite our inevitable compulsion to control, many have gotten sick. A friend was infected then laid out for weeks because his son reported, “no one wears a mask.” Including him one afternoon. Control or controlled?

That afternoon he had control. Then his father lost it for a month. I had control when I spoke into the remote last night. But the beauty of the humans my son watched at that same moment was not in the extreme control they exercised to get to a place to do what they loved – no, the beauty was in the lack of control of the moment.

In full view was success, failure, uncertainty, effort. It was life. It is what we do not have as much of this year. As we thought was our right.

We do have worldwide efforts at control. Lock-downs, closings, Laws, even, eventually, a vaccine. But this huge control effort has failed at the results of those who thought control was The Answer, because although we all want control, we really never have it.

We can make very lovely movies, but the words, music and acting can be awful. We can attempt control over a virus, but virtually every populated place amid other populated places is fully failing at that control, even those with the most intense attempts.

There is no greater effort humans devote to than “saving lives” – in all the ways “greatest” is measured – time, money, effort. And, well, we all die. No one gets out alive.

We fail at control because we can never have it. Because we did not make this place, ourselves, even the things in ourselves we love. No, we are coping with a place that has completely eliminated our ability to do more than try.

I will see a great good movie again. I saw two last week. Of course I knew they were great, because I had seen them before, I controlled that.

But the beauty of control or choreography simply pales in comparison to the raw and engaging devotions my son saw last night. Because there is no script. There is only the gift of life that we assume is owed.

Nothing is owed us. Everything was given to us. We do much with what we were given – or not. We have that control.

But we end up watching a great many bad movies.

“Kill” vs Aloha

December 25, 2020

According to an inside source, a salutation amongst Marines, either coming or going is “Kill”. Perhaps shortened from “I hope you kill it” (like “crush” or “wreck”) “Kill” seems quite the opposite of its non-military equivalent, Aloha.

But no one wants to “Aloha” 2020. We want it dead. As dead as the trees I cut down to celebrate our human effort in the cause of faith every year. But I never want to kill another year like this.

I want unnumbered invading cells to be killed by our vaccine preventing their own life extension. Now. Then in our limited years I want no Aloha return of this loss of our ability to do as we want.

But even in constriction humans do things. Hibernation, even defeat, is not what we do. We try.

A friend noted that there was a plague during a war in Greece 2,500 years ago. It killed one side’s leader. The other side one. The tradition was that the scores of temples to many Gods (on both sides) would receive faithful marches of believers to the temples of each. In those many temples were a couple to a God-on-Earth, thrown to our mortal plane by his fellow gods.

But unlike the others, that God was worshipped one human to one fallen human. Kind of like I do every morning.

After said war, and plague, new temples to the god-turned-human were built all over the countryside. When we know what we can’t do (like control a plague) (or win every war) humans attempt control over what they can control.

If the desired outcome is to kill the desire to live, our humanity – every single human – would need to be killed. This will happen. To each of us severally, but also via meteorite, plague, or nova. We are history, eventually.

This year has pushed the faces of each of us, of all of us, into the septic tank of our creations. What would have been just lunacy in elections, screaming of our injustices, the yelping whines of the dying off Boomer Generation from dominance, no matter what, last year could have just been a variant of all the other years we lived.

No, last year, please, was a singularity.

“Kill” indeed.

The Shortest Day After the Longest Year

December 22, 2020

That’s it.

PLAGUE VICTIMS

December 19, 2020

No, not the usual, screaming stuff, but the things that have quietly passed (your suggestions are welcome):

Home Field Advantage.

Home Field.

Sleep.

Height.

Vaccine Chronology.

College Applications.

Eucharist.

Dry Cleaning.

Carbon.

Ties.

(and Leather Shoes).

(and Belts).

(and Pants)

Laughter.

Christmas (holiday) Presents.

Being Late.

Flying.

(and Train-ing)

(and Carpooling)

Gasoline.

House Mysteries.

Being Surprised By Weather.

(and celebrity gossip)

(and memes, GIFs, etc.)

2021 HOME: Where Are We

December 17, 2020

CHRISTMAS EVE – THURSDAY, Dec. 24th – NOON! Live! WPKN 89.5FM Streaming: WPKN.org

We all live somewhere, those places are called homes, and those places are as common as they are unique in their manifestation of those who live in them. Another universality was with the entire world this year, for the first time in generations.

COVID19 is everywhere, all the time, and has been for most of this year. Whether we were shut in, or retreated to safety, or left a place of work, or school, or dining, or entertainment, everyone changed how we used our homes.

Did that change change our homes? HOME PAGE asks homeowners who happen to be architects the basic question” What Has Changed? Architects Pat Pinnell of Connecticut, Andrea Swartz of Indiana and Susan Ingham of Washington all have homes. They all used them differently than they used them before. They will all get vaccinated, their lives with change again:

Will their homes, will our homes, change again? Have homes changed beyond accommodating the imposition of a plague? When the plague abates, what will be changed in our homes? Perhaps nothing, perhaps everything.

Architecture never leads, it always follows, no matter what architects hope to be true. Homes are not changed by architects, they are changed by homeowners who engage with designers to embody the change that our culture imposes on our lives, and thus our homes. A time of change, one way or the other: either the Roaring 20’s or A Return To Normalcy: LISTEN!

The Science

December 17, 2020

“Follow The Science” is political, again.

No, we, nor the earth, are the center of the universe.

But neither is The Science.

The Science is just us, making the universe (that is beyond immeasurable) apprehensible. The idea that humans discovering reality makes them distinct from that reality is just silly. So everything we are, do, think is just another fact in the unending facts that compose the universe.

“Follow The Science” means “The Science” is human consensus of what is true. That changes because we come to know more. The way we use what we know should not be ‘The Science”, but it inevitably becomes part of The Truth.

The one truth we all seem to neglect is our inevitable death. If death is seen to be just a part of The Science, the truth, then fear of it would cease. But The Science is not the universe, we are The Science. We created The Science, but not the universe.

But we know that we are in an unfathomable universe that we did not make, but we are convicted to create The Science so we can address its creation.

We want to know what the blizzard is before it comes, desperately. Endless models, projections and their hype conflate the universe with advertising dollars. In truth we are getting better at dealing with the most immediate facts of the universe: the weather, our bodies, what things and forces are made of.

But the more we know, the more we understand what we do not know.

So we, the uneducated, rely on The Science, to Follow it.

My BMI is fully 20% higher than it should be. But the last 8 viles of blood revealed that there is literally nothing unusual in my 65 year old bag of water. And I work out like crazy, so my resting heart rate is around 55. But my blood pressure is higher than The Science says it should be, so I take pills.

What does that mean?

I will die, but maybe later. That’s about it.

The science used to say that what made me went beyond life and death and was found in value. It was called Eugenics. Those without the markers of what The Science held as good, were deemed not as good. Even to the point of thinking about editing them out the reproduction of the good. Why?

Because we want to be in control of our universe, not be subject to it.

Almost every scientist I know is an atheist. The facts on the ground do not indicate anything more than The Science, and those that do (life being extended by prayer, things not following The Science – like Dark Matter, Junk DNA, the Kardashians) are dismissed as awaiting future enlightenment.

But that enlightenment – and everything else – came from, what, exactly? We made it? We made us? We can make us? We can know what simple data should let us know – like the blizzard. After a certain pint, we should have had Zero Deaths from COVID19, we knew how it was transmitted, but we did not do that. We could not do that.

The Science is a hope, the universe is a fact. The universe is not understood, so we either fear or hope, or both. Or we have faith.

Faith is that horrible word that immediately makes The Science dismiss its ignorance. But it knows its ignorance. Ignorance is not an anti fact, it is a fact. As is the fact that the most humans feel independent of another The Science – Religion. Like politics, cuisine, architecture or music, religion is a way humans deal with what they are subject to – within them and imposed on them.

But we did not make faith. It is there no matter how much we know.

Charles Darwin had a daughter he loved beyond all reason. So many children died before adulthood in the 19th century, that another death of a fragile growing body should not mean much. But when his daughter died, her death crushed him. In a letter, Darwin said “blessings on her.” – The Science would not understand the love given to just another bag of stuff in the ground, becoming it. But The Science is not us, or the universe, it’s just us, looking at the universe – like religion.

I do not have faith in the universe, because it is completely inscrutable. But I do have what I cannot understand or avoid – faith beyond these moments. An inconvenient fact that is as real as any other. It may not be enough, but it is all I have.