Skip to content

Welcome to Saved by Design

September 26, 2017

New Stuff:

In Random Stuff: Shocked: Shocked

In Home Page: Entertaining Renovation

In Left To Myself : Stamps & Coins

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…


December 17, 2017

It’s as if the year funnels into this last month.

The confluence of work, family, culture, belief even food seems crammed to a crock pot about ready to pop: done or not. A stew of 7 too many ingredients is bubbling over and we need to serve it: Now.

There is the overwhelming spice of purpose in our stew, but the recipe is, for me, more confusion than control.

It will not taste as we had hoped it would – it never does. But we shove all the ingredients into the vessels of our lives in the hope we can control an outcome to be what we know (know) it should be. But in the end, we control little, maybe nothing.

My brother who became my sister left the world after 67 years 2 months ago, probably at her choosing. A man we named our first born son after is now, this moment, in the act of passing after 91 years. I spent 100 hours in Yale New Haven Hospital this year, because a layer of tissue in one vein was faulty.

Huge wheels rotate to places that reveal themselves to us, often at this panic-stressed time of year. We effort, we distract, we create, we hope – but the hopelessness in the cause of controlling the stew we create is, ultimately, confusing.

This year is typically grinding effort into realities. One son ran the NYC Marathon. I and another son evaporated about 25% of our body mass. My wife works harder than she has since our children were born. No room for ennui when things need to get done. Like Christmas.

As with every year, we had to kill a tree in order to bring it into our lives for a while. People live to give to the tiny meanings we have, but also to the hugely incoherent larger meanings we crash into this Solstice. For me, this year involves mortality. Death only makes it very clear, often too clear, that life is this medium, and to act in it there is a finite time to engage in the action. The living tree needed to become magnificent in its last 1% of being green to serve in our cause of celebration.

I wish I knew why we then used 10 years of muscle building by the marathoner, 48 years of Christmas strategizing by me, several generations of tree farming by a family in Guilford, CT. and the sweep and roll of centuries of cultural flow to make the death of a tree life again in a month of extreme celebration. Of Effort? Of Tradition? Of Faith? Of Family?

Probably all those things…IMG_2503

Shocked: Shocked

December 9, 2017


There is gambling at Rick’s Cafe. I know this because I saw the movie. The Inspector knew this because he knew Rick.

There are many things today, now, causing a level of outrage in the never abating media storm that are as fresh as the inspector’s outrage.

Al Franken does lame things. I know this because he has been a comedian for 40 years and plays to the cheap joke.

Harvey Weinstein is a detestable power broker. I know this because the media has said so for the last 30 years.

Donald Trump is a megalomaniac. I know this because be is a New York City Developer become Media Figure.

Of course gambling or being a jackass, a sexual predator or a megalomaniac are among the worst aspects of what humans can do. But knowing none of the accused as well as I know the movie Casablanca I am at a complete loss as to why their “outing” is anything but actually listening to a screeching discord that has been loudly present for decades. Knowing not much, I knew that each jackass in question was a jackass – didn’t you? Why is it, finally (and properly) intolerable, now? Why was it tolerable until a jackass was elected president?

Would the country be listening as intently if Bill Clinton was the First Man?

Because Leader Trump is a deeply shallow person (if thats possible) are we seeing the return of Puritanism in response? Remember, the desire to purify religion by outlawing singing in church, baptism of those born to the unsaved and imposing corporal punishment had a pretty short shelf life in the colonies – maybe 4 generations. If we now make being an ass suddenly socially unacceptable will it change the reasons people are asses?

It is not insane we have this president because enough of us voted for him, but it is inscrutably hard to understand how we now fervently and urgently condemn the behaviors that have always been ignored (in Trump’s case often admittedly so – by those voting for him). Leader Trump is an acknowledged jackass – even to himself, but the behavior of Bill Clinton was also ignored beyond one-off condemnation by partisans who disliked his politics.

Nothing I write here is new or fresh: it is probably boring and self-righteous: but we all want to be righteous. The Puritans, Al Franken, even I, want, deeply, to be right. But how can anyone (any one of us) be surprised that a Fundamentalist will win over a Pro Choice candidate in Alabama? How can you be surprised when some entitled “Stars” use their power to sexually gratify themselves?

Are you surprised?

If you are not, why then, please, are all those faces on all our glowing screens so shocked: Shocked! ? Is it because they were so righteous in their forbearance of the foibles of the powerful for so long that they must be shocked to still be righteous, now, that a fully flawed human is now our President?

Stamps & Coins

December 4, 2017

Philately is a hobby – so is coin collection. Old coins and stamps are a tiny bits of our past, little tokens of huge human efforts. Countries, places, people, events, art are all frozen on wee icons that have cash value.

But more.

A wildly fun life followed a fairly intense youth of trial and effort by my father until he was drawn into World War 2 in his mid-30’s. Before the war and after law school graduation, he would literally go to Harlem Jazz Clubs by night, practice law on Wall Street by day, and, in fair weather golfed all weekend at Point Judith, Rhode Island.

Then war happened. 3 years away, 5 more years home getting a new job, having children, then, ultimately fleeing to the Suburbs in 1952. No more jazz clubs, golf went to a country club, sometimes. But owning a home, daily train rides every morning and night regulated a life that used to be at his mercy.

Then I was born. Private school tuitions launched. The gardens, lawn and serial renovation of his home fully confined a life once led in hard play and hard work. Golf stopped, jazz was limited to occasional loud volume stereo play (also a hobby before I was aware). His life after I was born was now fully locked into meeting the needs of others, and philately happened.

I never knew my father without stamps and coins.

During the day, every day, my Dad was either at work, fixing his home, or sorting stamps and coins. At nights there was a very brief ingestion of 2/3 of a bottle of scotch, or any number of beers or Tom Collins’ until drunk, then, if screaming was for dessert, bed by 8. If we managed to not trigger rage, my father would retreat to Kent cigarettes and stamps and coins in his “Stamps and Coins Room”. No other hobbies. Few, if any, “events”, no “dates” with my mother.

By the 1960’s he would visit his de facto best friend, a coin and stamp store owner, going home via Grand Central Station. He would often buy something, sometimes not, but always trade conversation, largely circumscribed to the world of stamps and coins. The friendship was real and abiding, despite my father’s deep anti-semitism.

Night and weekends he silently sorted his infinite number of tiny possessions for hours. During the weekend days he had not had his 5pm drinking, otherwise, at night he was drunk in his sorting. He would sit at his desk, smoke and sort. Millions of glacéne envelopes, filing boxes and lists replaced the scrapbooks and raw bags of the original owners.

For the adolescent years of my time with him, my bedroom was across from his room, a converted second floor “sunroom”. I either watched TV or did homework. My mother did the dishes or laundry. It was pretty black and white.

My dad tried to interest me in this world in my 10th or 11th year. I dutifully listened, and sorted my worthless material, writing the correct name, year, rating, etc., but it was a task, not a passion. My teenage brother had previously disappointed him, and my sister was never even asked, so I was his last chance at connection to his endless hours of focus.

When I simply did as told, my father saw no passion in me for his deep distraction, and he, a lawyer, gave his collection to his children “GADWINS COINS” (my (and his) initials “GAD”; ‘WIN” – my brother’s name; and “S’ for my sister Susie’s name). The thing that took him away from his inability to be any part of anyone else’s lives was now his childrens’.

The cause of creating value for his children took what he did in the absence of his most excellent life before the war and made it his attempt to make some connection with them through the Kent smoke and booze. Endless hours alone, in silence, deeply drunk, hungover or sober, it was his full-on life after work for 20 years.

His children did things, including college, but he was at his desk. Then his wife took me to live in Buffalo, where she would be half the time for 4 or 6 weeks at a stint, and he would work, eat, drink and sort stamps and coins, whether he was with her or alone, but never again with his kids.

I went to his beloved alma mater, where he did not visit but once, when I was there or before or after I graduated. My parents never travelled, or went anywhere. Somehow he felt that those things were not anything he deserved to be a part of, including any trips, any events or any fancy new cars or clothing. He bought stamps and coins, sorted them, calculated their changing values, and slept almost always intoxicated.

Upon his death I was the executor of his estate, so upon his instructions I liquidated the GADWINS Collection in a grand auction. It took a fair amount of time, despite his well organized and complete cataloging and organization. The sale was a huge success, allowing my brother to buy 2 new cars – one for him and one for his wife. I was able to put a deposit on an office for my architecture firm. My sister was grateful.

His grown children do not have hobbies either. His first born son grew to only work and live, never finding a passion beyond survival, his daughter is completely focused on work. Neither of my siblings ever travelled, played golf or went to jazz clubs either. I never golfed, but I went on a few trips because my wife and kids really loved them, and take one week off a year. But none of us had or have anything like my father’s coin and stamp collection, and we seemed to have learned from his rejection of any other inspirations and judgments of them as simply not worthwhile.

In a world of disappointment and isolation, there was never a sense that enjoyment was legitimate. It was clear to us that satisfaction when something was accomplished was the reason to feel justified in your pursuits. So hobbies are not in my life, but living for and through my family and career seems enough.

We also learned that if my Dad was sorting stamps and coins he was not angry. He may have lost a time where he went to Europe with my mother, played 5 rounds of golf in a weekend and drummed with Cozy Cole’s Band at the Kit Kat Club, but that was gone forever by the time he was 40. But the stamp and coin collection was a good thing, and his absence was better than his anger, as well.

As he had hoped, we all benefitted from his one remaining hobby. But it was obvious that we would have preferred his presence in our lives. He saw one football game that I played, saw me once in five years at Cornell, missed pretty much everything else but my high school graduation. He missed even more with my siblings.

He was in his stamp and coin room.





December 3, 2017


Gold Model

Getting Done in Westchester



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 the Hartford Courant:Holy Holes!

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


Survivor’s Quilt

November 26, 2017


Sometimes it’s not guilt, it’s not even mourning, the aftermath of a family death is just sad.

It is the kindest of human acts. When a relative dies, those entirely unaffected by it simply say “I care for you.” Even though you did nothing. They know the death of a presumed intimate is a strange, deeply moving change in your life. It usually is.

Their gifts of love are as sacrificial as any that do not involve an organ donation or risking well-being on your behalf. Unsolicited, unrewarded, completely voluntary concern is freely given to you in a time of loss. The openness to show love offers up the best in us to those who are victimized by the worst life has to offer. In the last month of dealing with a sibling’s death, I am humbled by the many kind gestures.

But sometimes death has more mystery than grief for the survivors.

When my sibling died, our estrangement was as simple as any human disaster. After a life of radical changes and rejections – and what my parents would call “failures” – the last act of validation, or personal discovery, was my sister’s simple detachment away from any contact from or to anyone she knew before my parents both died.

In the last 23 years, my sibling had already changed careers from church sexton to bus dispatcher, and after my mother’s death had opted to act on the central human manifestation of declaring that his evident gender was never what was truly within him., despite two earlier marriages. He had full gender change transition, and then, despite all my efforts, she simply never returned any calls, emails, letters involving any number of invitations. But this was not unusual.

This was simply the most radical shift away from contact that was part of who he then she was since I was a child. In his and her 67 years there were perhaps 5 distinct venues for a life based on work for human contact – including one stint, as a Sexton and a second marriage that included a deep personal commitment to the Episcopal church and Faith in God. It appears that contact evaporated as well.

At her death, I was compelled to at least find the ways and means of my sister, despite (or perhaps because of)  no will, no letter of intent, no personal conversation with anyone. That month of discovery evidenced one simple truth: despite some very thoughtful time every day with many friends at work, the other side of her life away from work was, for everyone involved, a deep mystery, only partially revealed when as the next of kin I was encouraged by the police to break into her house and see a world that no one other than my sibling had ever seen before I entered.

The 15 years of evolution from a re-engineered life into a completely bifurcated work/home split became complete, radically distinct, and for my sister created a desperately private world when she was away from her job for The Westchester Bus Company – meaning there was no family or even human connection of any kind, save for a received call from my older sister every few years, but not for at least the last year before her passing.

So the many loving, giving thoughtful words, acts and letters had a special tinge of contrasting open handed giving in comparison to the inexplicable devolution of a life into desperate isolation. Her death was not the loss of sharing, or even of practical help – either given or received, as it had never been present in my or any other family member’s life in memory. That sharing was never part of my life with my sibling, he was too busy simply surviving. My sibling simply died.

But the loss was real in that it shut off another perspective that I will never know but obliquely saw. In living for 62 years I have had over 250 years of combined experience with what was a family of five, now two.

I wish I could say any one of us ever actually knew my sister beyond what he then she felt could be shared – pretty much like the rest of us. In human conditions there are things shared in joy or pain, and there are those life experiences that are conveyed simply by living to everyone who can see and hear what we do. In my family, and many others in Mid-20th Century post World War 2 suburbia, the world had given us a matrix to fill in. Sharing was not loving, in fact love was almost a sacred, tiny world – saved for the most vulnerable of moments – birth, death, marriage – but never offered nor expected at any other time.

The roles and expectations for happiness – graduations, marriages, careers, births, the joys of performance, the pain of failure, even death were, for my family, “personal”. For most of us, we found those we loved and loved us, so the circle of love was most often reduced to a binary, and for my passed sibling that survival sharing came down to her life, alone.

I will process that spiral to survival for some time, perhaps the rest of my life. As tragedies and triumphs come and go, the best in us will again be given to me, by me and with the full understanding it is the gift that matters, as the understanding is often impossible.

But those gifts have infinite meaning, and purpose: it is love – with a reason and result that most often defies meaning. It is what we have to give.

The Terrible Beauty of Survival

November 22, 2017


The day before our one nationally historic, religiously based but acceptably God-Free Holiday, Thanksgiving, I am here. You are here. We survived.

Half of those who started out in 1620 survived to their landing in the New World almost 400 years ago. The people that met them, despite losing 2/3’s of them over the centuries before that (killed by unseen assassins brought over from where the Pilgrims were coming from) had survived.

Tomorrow I am with the now post-60 year old children of parents, that now more than half dead. We go to a service that is almost gone from the 1928 Prayer Book that has been official killed, but has little after life’s like this.

We survive, mostly.

We benefit in survival, all that we see, feel, and know here, but given some circumstances that is a blessed little give the risks: in fact many believe not surviving gets you to a better place, and some of us live in terrible circumstances now.

But we must go on, so we find a way to galvanize the desire.FullSizeRender copy 4

We find a way to bring that hard focus of going on into our lives.

We find small triumphs in the haze of getting stuff done to get forward, to survive.

And like those who play in Thanksgiving football games tonite, create and consume huge amounts of food tomorrow, the survival is often its own reward.

Enough of those religious fanatics survived 397 years ago, that millions of fanatics survive today, and tomorrow. In the end, with the vagaries of so many unknowables before us, there is a joy in just getting through it.

And if there is joy, there is, automatically, Thanks. Very few of us know enough or have enough capabilities and capacities to actually control what we end with. But like the triumphant, all I, and you, achieve is due, in the end, to survival.

So amid the chaos of the season, in this season of my my life, I am deeply grateful for the terrible beauty of survival.


Entertaining Renovation

November 17, 2017

DuoOnly-HomeTime-FbHeader-1b-851x315_wTHANKSGIVING! LIVE! THIS THURSDAY the 23rd! NOON! WPKN 89.5FM live streaming!

You might not have noticed: its the holidays: a bunch of folk who have renovated their homes will be on air describing how their renovations changed they way they entertain, and how This Thanksgiving is impacted!

Bringing the World Into Your Home, when you have made your home better for the world and you – and THANKSGIVING!  LISTEN!!!