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Welcome to Saved by Design

April 14, 2017

New Stuff:

In Silence In Spring : Thrombus

In Left To Myself : When Failure Gets The A

In Random Stuff: Rite 1 – Law & Order

In Not (As) Fat: Hungry & Fat

In Finding Home: 30 Years in a Room

In The Rules: Between Rocks & Hard $$$

In Home Page: At Home With Past Lives

Decoration Is Not Enough

April 25, 2017



We want where we live to be ours. We want our homes to reflect us, There are over 70 million free-standing homes, but very few of them were built by those who live in them, and no apartment, condo or co-op was built with anyone in mind. So we Decorate: color, furniture, lighting, carpets – our stuff: us.

But there is an ethic in design, one where the making is itself an art experience: where the way of creating, building, experiencing a home is richly evolved. It’s ornament, it’s craft, it’s architecture: Its origin, it’s meaning and it’s design is not to create a surface of frozen time – here, design is used and has beauty in its essential utility in use and function.

Three of the most accomplished, skillful and engaging design/architecture/artist creators in the world are with HOME PAGE this week. In studios is Yale-trained architect Louis Mackall – for 50 years his unbridled creativity was in everything he did – but he managed to also create Breakfast Woodworks with Ken Field about 40 years ago although Breakfast has new owners the founders still work on site – the work is incredible, award winning, in every environment and in many regions.

A special treat this week will be an interview with sculptor, artist, craftsman Kent Bloomer – he trained at Yale and never left the area: teaching at the school for two generations. He may be the greatest definer and builder of architectural ornament in the world: In fact, he is. Bloomer’s book with co-author Charlie Moore, “Body, Memory, Architecture” is required reading . His insights into why we decorate, why ornament is an extreme leap to the universal, the intimate, the alive is both compelling and fascinating.

Lastly, architect Barry Svigals is also Yale trained in architecture school. He started his own firm a generation ago and his work exploded to have a huge impact on everyone who uses them. His work can be seen in schools, apartment buildings, institutions, but completely in his art: the exquisite, evocative personal expression they embody goes beyond embellishment to inspire the entire building composed under Barry’s hand. His most famed project is the just-completed Newtown Elementary School, where healing and hope found their essential beauty in Svigal’s ethic.



April 24, 2017

198956_10150431310185363_5952396_n What is permanent?

We want forever.

But we are temporary.

We create forevers: architecture, politics, religion. We are devoted, often completely, to things that humans, really ourselves, have created. It would be as if having honey, bees then live their entire purpose into its creation and preservation.

Wait: They Do.

But we are not bees. I, you, know we will die. I knew this before, once again, the machine I was born into, failed, as inevitable, 5 weeks ago today

There is a primal fear and flight from the tangibly inadequate. There are excuses: it was a bad winter so not much pollen so not much honey – or – how does a bee control a bear? – or – if I fly to more flowers and bring home more pollen, we have a better forever.

But we are not bees.

In the belly of “Saving Lives”, a hospital (or if you are in the Yale orbit “The Hospital”) they (scores of the highly trained) devoted a lot of time to forever, in me. It turns out they simply forced me to let me heal me (this is not a small thing). I knew then, I know now, that this extends – but, is, truth be told, not saving.

My body, your body, can not be forever. It is not “saved” like dead figs – it’s known, loved and inspirational. But it becomes inert. The spark of thought, movement, feeling simply clicks off like a diode. It ends.

In babydom the next minute is eternity: it is forever. Those measures of focus become shorter, and maybe larger. Career, connection, extension, enrichment all take the machine and use it to be, well, more.

But nothing is “saved” in this machine – just in the hive of all the rest of us, it’s meant that we have time to live beyond this machine, and make more with others, those that go beyond me.

The “more” we do can be saved, if remembered. It can be a warning of what is wrong and foolish, or that what we do can be better. Religion has become, for many, the opposite of more: it is them, or before, or a joke. But religion was made because then it was more.

More is only possible in the saving of the now. Those scores looking and millions of data points on me last month wanted what happened: I am here. The millions that made places, music, words, rituals, connection wanted a now too.

They wanted now because they saw that in touching something beyond them, but something they all knew, it could be more. Now what they did separates many, maybe most, from something beyond themselves. Now the me is becoming the central focus of more and more of us.

We know the me is temporary: we now, now, the moments become just memories – but the meaning of moments can be strong enough to take the unnecessary part of the machine and reveal it to be the essence of all of us.

We are not bees, but we have a mission. We may have thought it to be to build cathedrals, cure cancer, liberate the oppressed: and it is: but all that pollen and its honey just helps make things more.

If we forget that me is not all there is to more, if here, now, is not saved, even our machines are never, finally saved – we miss the fact that there is a huge place of belief and faith and devotion in each of us.

I call it God, it’s there for me – I still do everything for more, now: every thing. But I know that I will be gone, but I am part of more. You are too.

City Living

April 22, 2017


My old publisher, Taunton, is creating a book on “Urban Houses”. 32 under 1,800 square foot interesting designs. A decade ago, in the Housing Boom of 3 million new, freestanding homes were being built a year, this book would have never happened in that suburban frenzy..

But the publishing world wrote a lot of house books, including mine. But this one follows the the story of the renewed interest in “walkable cities” into the familiar ground of the “American Dream”. it’s a different dream. Smaller, more open, where the lot size means less and the neighborhood means everything – the city. But it’s still stand alone, owned, designed, proud.

So a new book of 32 neat, cool, houses is created – with pretty pictures, good stories – but except for the Introduction likely not the whole story. If the city, town, region has amenities (work, restaurant, entertainment) then new residents change architecture – simply because the culture has changed and houses always respond.

Sure, the Sustainable Movement, the Green Movement, says the Great American Suburb is morally, fiscally and practically wrong. The inefficiency of “an acre and a plot of land” is obvious when you look at an apartment, a tenement any urban home. So write a book of them. But this book will only feature one solution, when the last decade has seen 20 million parents become empty nesters, and all their children think about how the want to live.

We learn more from failure than success. 7 million families – 1 in 10 homes were lost to foreclosure when the Housing Bubble burst, and many places have not recovered: The prime casualty was that 2 generations of house investment juggernaut are gone forever. The danger of a mortgage risk and drudgery of upkeep and taxes has made home ownership sour for many: no matter how many beautiful books are printed.

Meanwhile the market of Suburbia dropped by 90% for new home building less than 10 years ago. It’s now under or a 1 million, but that’s not the story. My kids, maybe your kids – maybe you – do not want a “solid” suburban home as a parking place of equity, let alone debt. As an architect my clients are figuring how childlessness, while waiting on grandchildren, makes sense living in a cul-e-sac.

The 60 years between the end of World War 2 and The Housing Crash have created over 40 million homes on patches of lawn near urban centers, depopulating many cities, but leaving behind huge undervalued housing for a part of society with either less money, or less need for privacy and good public schools.

Until this last decade.

The world War 2 GI’s who survived knew nothing about Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. They knew “Shell Shock”‘ “Battle Fatigue” and “Section 8” – they saw carnage, monstrosities, devastation – the most inhuman conditions of faithless hate and violence. They came home to the Land of Milk and Honey.

They all smoked in nervous ritual. They drank as if it were breathing. They wanted the opposite of the crowded, terrifying, battlefield. They wanted out of the barracks and lock-step co-habitation of the military. They wanted a family. Families need homes.

The government that won, ours, was thrilled to offer a mortgage tax break, a GI Bill, and the Federal Housing Act: all taking 20 million broken souls to a better place – quieter, calmer, private – and focused on a simple patriarchy that made the damaged veteran completely accepted. Every home could be his castle.

Of course Ike helped with the Federal Higway Program,. Modern farming, transportation and refrigeration meant less need for farmland near places of work – typically cities. “Bedroom Communities” were created from scratch in one generation: spawning malls, school districts, and the libraries, hospitals and governments that naturally followed.

Their children upped the Greatest Generation ante: they made bigger homes, farther away from cities – and corporations followed building brand new, remoted “Suburban Campuses” for GE, General Foods, Xerox, Texaco and many others – in my region alone.

Soon “McMansions” were the suburban home grotesquerie on steroids. More rooms, larger rooms, more materials, more “Style” – and on and on. The government followed again, and Freddy Mac, Fanny Mae, and federal policy pay made money flow to almost anyone that could say they were committed to own a home.

More demand meant Higher prices. Crazy demand meant badly built homes. But architects who always had less the 5% of the home market now has 3 times the number of homes to design. Firms that specialized in residential design were under 10% of the profession for 100 years now grew to becoming 20% of all companies practicing architecture. There are now 40% fewer firms dedicated to residential work.

Through Oil, Tech, Stock and Building and Loan Bubbles the house market seemed a given – until 10 years ago. Now the PTSD Generation’s grandkids are rethinking the way they live. The Boomers are looking at empty space and 3 cars, and a couple of acres.

The city looks better. With smaller sites, homes shrink to a desireable size. Even if you “never want to own a home” new buildings with community facilities for renters are beginning to make sense. First in all academic, research, established urban environments, but soon, everywhere.

Some will always want a castle – especially now that they are cheaper in this changing time: but those damaged by war, their children who wanted a Bigger Life are at the end of home ownership: the next wave of the Boomer Kids are now living back home in the Outsized Suburban Home -more of them than that generation who live in their own place with a spouse – for the first time.

So I do what I have always done for 40 years: create homes for people. Including the project here: under $200 per square foot in downtown Peeksill. It can be done: the Elites are not the only market, and they are the smaller market.

The tony, hip, smart new homes of the new Taunton book are very interesting. They are Modern in intention: efficient, open, high-tech: but they are a small portion of a huge story. The bigger, realler news is that things are changed and changing. The potential reality is that the unknown therapy of Suburbia is changing as the PTSD Generation is leaving earth.

Where will it go? architects will not decide, direct, or point the way: they will follow and, if they can see change rather than hype or style, a new generation of homes will result.



April 11, 2017

40 of 40

Some things are once in a life.

The last few years I have opted to write 40 times during Lent, everyday, in silence, on the bike for 90 minutes – ending at Holy Week.

It seemed right and a good thing to do as the season was focused to a better place, and I went with it. This year there has been over 2,000 visits to these writings: small by InterWebNet standards, but big for this.

I opted to take a one day half time break, the 21st day of Lent, exactly 3 weeks ago. No writing, no bike. However this 3rd annual daily deal became point of life pivot.

At midnite a completely crazed night terror, my captaining our house thru a raging storm, ended went I crashed, awake. The resulting 5 days were spent in hundreds of tests, first every hour, then 2, then 4. About a dozen doctors, more technicians, and nurses and staff created a huge database. Scans – magnetic and radiation, every day, many blood draws all were performed. I was perforated, manipulated, walked and unendingly questioned and tested.

It came down to a “thrombic event”. A blood carrying tube had its inner layer compromised – probably genetic, as I had no (recent) head trauma – and no evidence of any other anywhere. It burst, flooding a part of my brain with blood. Except for balance, nothing was affected. I worked at my bed for 5 days with 9 wires, tubes and apparati attached to me

But everything was affected.

Those tests and hours upon hours of the Best and Brightest reviewing revealed a simple reality. I had had a 1 in 5 type of flood, I was 1 in 10 of those: zero damage. The lead doctor was amazingly focused and finally agreed, that there was nothing to do as I was healing on my own. After 100 hours I went home on the fifth day (24th writing).

Each day for the post-event 10 the drunken part of my brain sobered up, I did not resume coffee, deserts, milk or cheese, Triscuits, lunch or comfort food. But I could have a drink.

The results are daunting. Upon visiting a doc yesterday, I will have a tiny touch of aspirin and statin forever, just like the exercise I am doing now. I must get less fat, as my blood pressure must be less, although I feel fine, maybe better.

The daunting thing is not found in surviving, or therapies – it’s the weirdness of avoiding any and all medical observation, attention, help for 50 years and finding unlimited resources and 5 24hour days to reveal that I am “perfect” (and fat). Nothing before, nothing indicated after, no anything indicating anything anywhere else. No mystery.

But I am faithful. I return to Yale in 2 months to be inspected and have a massive blood draw – “I want to study those who are undamaged” said the Goddess. I will drop mass, and if enough pressure is relieved no other drug save the two I take now and forever, to reduce it. I will do as told, but the polite insertion of the event only cost one radio show and one potential client who could not wait a week to see me.

“You are young.” Said the very young doctor yesterday. Yes, but now it’s all pre-event and post-event, like going to school, getting married, having kids, kids leaving: one of the later markers has been set. Like these 40 pieces, unrelenting, but half in the post-event time.

Easter is Good.


April 10, 2017

Honored to be a Fellow in the AIA

(I came late to the party, so this is pretty swift)


Before & After

Before & After

Leonard Saari B&A Exterior

Before & After

Leonard-Saari B&A Int.1



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 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



April 10, 2017

39 of 40

You would think a full belly, a night’s sleep, love, shelter is the bottom line.

But it’s not.

Things disappoint. Promise thrills and expectations rise.

I wanted to play. I wanted to start. Then captain. Then Harvard (got Cornell). Then Alison, Helen, Jane, Barbara, finally Liz. Marriage became babies, then Great Kids, then adults. Degree, became license, became firm. Building became awards, lectures, writing.

Now I receive justification I did not ask for. But then kicked ass to get. I never wanted to be a part of the American Institute of Architects. I helped make places to live for 25 years then my publisher made me join at 48 to sell the next book.

Then the world had a decade that said my last 25 were part of economic salvation: homes were the way everyone could be great again: forever. I helped make a place for architects who did that: and the instant I joined they asked to get me in ever deeper, running a tiny piece of the AIA.

No, I said.

I always had had my own obsessions – and soon the balloon popped. I kept on doing what I do for the last decade, but there are, now, 50% less of us doing it – like it was 20 years ago. Between 3 or 4 other booms.

But now, in 2 weeks or so, I get to be one of 3,000 of 111,000. First you need justification enough to get licensed (down from 200,000 who have degress), then pay $700 a year to be a member of the AIA (down to 60,000). Then a branch has a committee who reviews nominations (are you kidding?) or as per me, that committee, one of a hundred, finds the Fellow in their midst.

So, at 61, but only just after the AIA decade required for nomination, I get the verification I never sought – but always wanted, and that can never be had and go to Florida to wear a robe – 9 hours on the ground.

Doing is not satisfaction. Getting things done is not verification. Swimming to push air over your gills is not breathing.

There are infinite measures, goals, achievements: but, really, there is only one: living – being given everything – Everything – by a simple, completely unknown, Faith.

I do not think that guy asked to have his last 3 years become billions of humans 2,000 years ago. I do not know if he, in this last week, felt verification. I doubt it.