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Welcome to Saved by Design

April 14, 2017

New Stuff:

In Random Stuff: Safe Space

In Left To Myself : Fear of Sacrifice

In Not (As) Fat: Hungry & Fat

In Finding Home: New Place, Old Need

In The Rules: Between Rocks & Hard $$$

In Home Page: GROWING – at Home

In Silence In Spring : Thrombus

Summer Of 1972

June 24, 2017

“I’ll see you in August.”

My mother shut the door of our 1968 Oldsmobile Vista Cruiser station wagon, yet another time, after three years of serial withdrawal.

It was June in downtown Buffalo, 1972. It was hot. I was 16. It was a couple of weeks into the summer after 11th grade. The previous fall I had been voted one of the 2 captains of my high school football team, that had, again, won our very small private school league championship.

I had played some, less as the year went on. Not being a natural athlete I had played in the fall of 1971 because I was ready, because I worked out the summer before. I also played because I focused on the thing I cared more about than anything else – being good at football.

My other focus, my best friend, was leaving, too. She was a classmate, and she summered in the Adirondacks. My coinhabitant of our house was my 21 year old brother, who worked – and never said much to me if he was around – and when around he was often remotely in the hands of mind alteration.

So I was alone, again.

In the previous spring I had discovered that the University of Buffalo had a program for rising high school seniors: if in, you could enroll in any undergraduate course. Including summer courses. Heaven. I applied, and got in.

I did odd jobs on my block for expense money, but my parents agreed to pay for any courses I could enter: remarkably inexpensive at a state school 45 years ago. I entered two 400-level, max credit courses. Both courses were 5 days a week, for 6 weeks, I wanted to do this because I was into school: grades were a thing I could do.

One course, reading and discussing about 24 Shakespeare plays, met from 7:45 to 9:15am. The other was about the history of Britain from the Magna Carta to The Bill of Rights and met one building away from 9:30 to 11. The professors were remarkable, the topics fascinating – it was a complete immersion.

But I was immersed in football too.

I was slow of foot, so I had worn 5 pound ankle weights for a year when I was not working out or sleeping. I had no driver’s license, so I rode my bike everywhere, rain or shine or dark of night. For several years I rode to the Downtown Buffalo YMCA where other high school athletes, off duty police and interpersonally ambiguous middle aged men were. The kids and cops worked out – the others seemed to watch.

So there was my summer: mornings cycling 10 miles up Main Street to classes, then cycling to our house, changed, had a large shake of protein powder, 6 raw eggs, vanilla extract, honey and skim milk, back on the bike cycling down Main Street to hit the track and weight room for 3 hours: then back home by 5 to study, sleep at 10 and wake to do it again. Weekends were working out and studying.

Six weeks seemed like an endless sea of time. I had 24 hours a day to do what was necessary, and only what was necessary. It was bliss. Letters from my friend, living with Cromwell and Shakespeare, sore and crushing it in the gym.

I had no friends, no family, no hobbies, no social life. But I had two things to do as hard as I could do them. In rotation: Mind, Body, Mind, Body. School, Gym, School, Sleep. 24 hours a day for 46 days. I went to bed exhausted. Mind racing, thinking of the next day

I never said a word before 7:45AM or after 11AM, and I was largely silent on weekends. There was no questioning: This was Right. I could do this. My grades were good, the class discussions intense and fun. My Leg Press on the old Unversal Gym Weight Machine as completely maxed out, and my bench press was finally approaching my weight. I came to run, with the ankle weights, for an hour without distress – pushing to go faster on the 1922 banked track around the basketball court.

I could do this.

I may not have a family, I may not have straight A’s, I may not be the best player on my team – but I could get better.

I could get better.

In doing well in class, I realized I could not have history, writing or ideas as the rest of my life: I had to make things: like this summer, like my body. But I loved ideas, physical acts – and drawings. Each night, like most nights then, I went to sleep by thinking about how things were made: a chair, a box, a building.

Amid the silence, my brother’s closed bedroom door, another load of laundry, I knew I had to decide: I had to apply to college: and college was to train you for the career that was your identity. I was 16, after all.

In that clarity, I saw my books, my drawings, my thoughts in the moonlight, before I drifted off and said: “Architecture.”

I was, for a short time, a monk. There were few questions. There were some answers. Those before me on the practice field in August payed a terrible price.

Channelling The Inner Fascist

June 20, 2017


10 years ago I rectified eating one extra Milano a day for 30 years (literal calorie count) and dropped 1/3 of myself. It took 8 months, but more it took irrational dedication. Ending a defendable lifestyle of eating no classic junk, but inhaling Triscuits, while working out 6 days a week required my inner Facist.

I think we all have an inner Facist. The other Facists like Hitler relied on that to get power. But fat people are very used to being fat: relativism and liberal acceptance make for very bloated bodies. Bad behavior is simply explained, boxed, filed and another handful of Triscuits eaten.

Well, I have not eaten a Triscuit in 3 months. 90 days ago, exactly, I experienced a reckoning and I reset.

The reckoning was caused by another genetic specificity other than needing very few calories to be at a constant body weight. A genetically flawed artery lost it, I lost balance, it repaired itself, but the Doctor Woman said: “get the blood pressure down”.

She also said no need for a low salt death march, that drinking is fine…but c’mon. The only obvious mechanism (because I hate drugs) was dropping the pounds put on since 2008 and working out with more insanity. Despite larding up a bit over a decade, I still fit, sort of, into my “thin” clothes and had worked out about an hour every day, minimum. But this event revealed a loss of control that proved unacceptable, and I must respond.

So I stopped (mostly) coffee, desserts, snacks, cheese, crackers, fluids with calories (except drinks), lunch and, well, anything that was sugary. And I worked out harder and longer: usually an hour and a half.

So I eat one 1,500 calorie food trough a day and add about 300 additional calorie burn (perhaps 700 total per day), losing about 3 pounds a week. I eat a little crap at parties – even lunch when it’s socially required (but have less dinner).

Mindless flow into my maw ended. No righteousness – I only needed to do this because that flow was so distractingly nice and stupid. I had to exert my will. Hard. Unforgiving. Facist.

Intolerance is very nasty when it’s imposed on other people, perhaps worse when you hate yourself. But if part of you is dangerous you kill it. Losing my 1/3 re-layering after my 1/3 full body loss a decade ago was not defendable (but it tasted and felt good).

So I am down over 30, 15 to go, heart rate in the low 50’s, pressure to 138-145 over 70’s with 10 more to kill. I have a doctor check in in 2 weeks. I will hit it hard until and after.

The soft loving explanations of fallibility are not revelations: I am human and weak. But part of me is also a Fascist. Zero tolerance, no guilt, nothing to whine about – more importantly nothing to brag about. I did not earn this, I screwed up and I am dealing with it.

“Just Do It” may be a guilt-grabbing profit-monger slogan: but it’s true: despite talk of disease and sensitivity, the bottom line for we fat comes down to shutting the pie hole: hard.

OBJECTS (at home)

June 19, 2017


THURSDAY, JUNE 22: Noon – 1PM – LIVE! 89.5FM

Everyone has objects. Every lives somewhere. Many own their biggest object -their home. But even within the biggest home there are beloved objects. The smallest room, rented, shared, squatted in has “stuff”. There are necessaries clothes, appliances, things to sleep or sit in – but there is “stuff” we love for what it, or they, mean to us.

Why do we love our things?

Our stuff can have a history, we could have built it, or renovated it, or it could just be unbearably cool. But some things we have were lovingly created by someone, and we now have it. This is not decoration, its a love of the essence of some things we own: “Our Stuff” can be deeply meaningful.

Joining us are three people devoted to understanding the value of objects, and defining why they are so important to us:

Joe DeRisi founded Urbanminers a “walk the talk” sustainability juggernaut in Hamden. Joe holds a master’s degree in resource management as well as a certificate in deconstruction, and has worked locally as an environmental analyst, conservationist and former building contractor. DeRisi saves things. Many things – and earns a living recycling them. The Hamden Chamber of Commerce gave him the 2012 Green Business Advocate Award and he was designated as Business New Haven’s Rising Star of 2010.

Kerry Triffin helped create one of the great object celebration centers in the world Fairhaven Furniture (in Fairhaven in New Haven) and loves wood (his very first job was working as a climber for Walgren Tree Experts right here in New Haven.) Triffin went to Yale University where he degreed in English literature and business administration. Kerry is also obsessed with objects and believes that what you surround yourself with in your native habitat reveals what you love.

Turner Brooks teaches architecture at Yale and practices architecture in New Haven. His work has been celebrated by Princeton Architectural Press, Architectural Record “Record Houses” His firm designed Yale’s Gilder Boat House and a terrific social center at the Cold Spring School in New Haven. In 1984 Turner was awarded the Mid-Career Rome Prize and in the spring of 2015, Turner was awarded the Sidonie Mishkimin Clauss ’75 Prize for Teaching in the Humanities.

Husband & Father

June 17, 2017


Many never marry, many others never have children.

Despite optional choices, tragedies, ambiguities each year the Hallmark Machine sucks our human frailty with a guilt that compels buying their stuff for those you should prove your love to. Options have consequences.

Despite all temptation and expectation, marriage and parenthood are options. No matter how much love allures or motivates, seduction does not mandate a marriage license or impregnation. The desire to bond, have sex, marry, and even to follow thru on pregnancy are gateways, not sentences.

But consequences are unknowable. What seems right now is often a very bad idea later.

My parents, their parents, most others all followed a path started by love. The path for them led to different places than they expected. Often disappointing places.

My father had a mother who was unhappy enough that a year after his birth a backstreet abortion killed her in 1911. His father went on to marry twice more. My mother’s father was a sweet loving man that my mother flew away from to be an artist, then she bonded, hard, to my father at 20 – after fleeing college for New York City. I cannot imagine either father was sanguine about these consequences.

Children are not their parents. The necessary independence often shocks those who birth them because it’s usually a rejection – mostly of the parents’ expectations. We have a hard time following our own best selves, let alone the impossibility of others following your hopes.

But we parents want for those we somehow feel part of. We cannot help but direct, cajole even threaten or guilt. That is we cannot but try to help if we care. After having two children who radically changed my parents’ expectations, they largely left the third, me, alone.

They fully provided all necessities, except safety. My father paid every bill until my last tuition bill. I never felt entitled to more, but I felt alone.

Fatherhood is not a job description. I know, I am one. My parents had devastating preconditions before me – and my children, good men, are exquisitely different. They share sexual orientation, a love and facility for singing, and their parents and not much else.

But my sons have more in common than I did with my siblings – and far more than I did with my parents.

Father’s Day may whitewash the Dad Relationship to cash in on the guilt of unmet expectations, the hope for perfection, or just the deep, natural love I still hope for in my long dead parents – but it’s a huge answer for a trillion unresolvable inadequacies.

Living my first 16 years to avoid any trauma to anyone, I was able to avoid problems pretty well. That year my father was up in a Buffalo, where I had been sequestered in mid-century and my mother regularly visited.

I was approaching maturity in self-reliance, so when my drunken father was railing against his unmet expectations before our Christmas tree (that I had provided that year), I felt it was OK to simply suggest to him that he could quit his New York City life, I did not need private school, I could deal with college, he had a home in Buffalo.

“No.” he said. “You do not understand.” he slurred.

No, I did not.

Humans seldom understand other humans, but some of us created some of us, and we love them, we think they love us. But we, I, are often clueless about love. Hallmark knows enough about love to make a huge amount of money so we can all feel better.

On Father’s Day, that love is transacted for those with living parents or have children. But that near universal marketing vehicle is a complicated knot of conflicted, unresolved, incoherent realities.

It’s Father’s Day weekend. I wish I understood mine.

Safe Space

June 10, 2017

Everyone wants a nest.

Everyone has a nest.

Some of us make our nest.

I am an architect who went to an Ivy school.

When I went to Cornell in the 1970’s it was a place of radical action. There were student radicals – anti-Vietnam, Black Panther, student government zealots. It was a wild scene in architecture school.

Professors had been fired the year before I arrived to end the pedagogic lock step of the so-called “Texas Rangers” – a group of professors that had created a thoroughly abstracted design education where the act of building was distantly second to “Formalism” – it was a discipline for any fine arts expression, not merely architecture.

Now, I live near New Haven, and many friends attend Yale. Speakers are not invited or listened to if their message is too “dangerous” – the students cannot “unhear” the wrong message. Any personal contact can be unsafe: including a professor telling students, in writing, that Halloween costumes are both fantasy and humor, not commentary. She was forced to quit. Those costumes were potentially dangerous missiles of hate.

Quiet, beautiful Yale should be a “Safe Space”.

Back in the day, I won a Record House Award – inclusion in the issue of Architectural Houses issue back then was the highest recognition any architect-designed house could have. In that day, it was a rollicking issue – about 20 wildly different projects. Then diversity mattered more than safety.

This week I received the 2017 issue. It had a wildly fun house on the cover: a bold move: but inside, all but a few of the 10 or so projects were very, very “safe” – High Modern (one of them is this piece’s picture). As with the last 30 years that issue, where I had 4 recognitions in the years before the 21st century was “Safe”.

The self-referential Modernist aesthetic is intact within the Record House pages in the last generation. My work is not safe and has not been its pages for awhile. That hurts.

Despite those awards, and 20 others – many awarded by the AIA, I was never in the American Institute of Architects until I was told it abetted my 6th book: I was almost 50, the time was a wild Housing Bubble world where architects were being celebrated in the house world – I said sure.

So I paid dues (and won more awards) for the last dozen years. I was then asked to compete to be a Fellow – 3,000 out of the 80,000 architects in the AIA, out of the 140,000 who could be. Winning is important to me, not safety.

I won, with over 100 others in 2017, I was offered safety: the AIA is just like Yale and Record Houses: it is a safe place for the convinced. Architects are important there.

I played and coached football in the 1970’s, too. It hurt. It was dangerous (I was taught to tackle with my head) but it’s greatest danger is in the Ivy world where football (that I coached in the 1980’s and later helped create a player of in the 2000’s) is viewed as a primitive tribal act of mental insufficiency.

Football’s dangers and ugliness are not alone in the Ivy Outlook. I am an Episcopalean. I am not just a cultural devotee, I know that God is with me every day. It is an awkward fact for the secular when they bump into into my faith. My faith is delusion for many people I know and love. It’s not safe to be born in Faith in a world that has faith in this world.

I live seeing a greater good that I fail at everyday: It hurts.

We all want safety. The world is a dangerous place. There are bad actors, opportunities for ugly, and fear is everywhere because danger is everywhere.

Some wear winter coats. I do not own one. I would rather be doing what my clients, the site, my insights demand to create things that speak a different truth than what Record Houses feels is safe.

I became an AIA Fellow this year, but I cannot find safety in that embrace – it’s still the box I think out of. God is not a thumb to suck: my failures are not a safe space for me, no matter his Grace.

It’s my Cornell Alumni Reunion this year – I did not go.

Safety is overrated.


June 9, 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


Fear of Sacrifice

June 3, 2017


It was the fall of 1969.

I had been the punching bag for an undefeated high school football team, a team so small that freshman practiced with, and stood in against, varsity players – some of whom were good enough to play in college. That meant that by November I was the Rudy of the Park School Pioneers – the worst player on the team.

But, for the first time, at 14, I was part of a team.

By November there was less of me, I was harder, the soreness in most parts of my body was gone and the crotch rot was mostly healed. “Duo has reorganized his body some.” was my coach’s Football Dinner freshman introduction.

I was a joke as a football player in 1969. I only had one attritubute: I tried.

My life was survival then: I was dropped into downtown Buffalo – a swift exit from the gentle prison of screaming Mid-Century Mad Men rage. It was a NYC suburbs life of the Alcoholic Provider Model. I was the youngest, the others away, a place my mother wanted to be, apparently.

My mother had Buffalo family, who knew the wee school I attended. I saw the brochure – it had an image of football. I had seen some games on TV, I went to a game with my Dad at Yankee Stadium.

Football was everything I was not. The players used their bodies in a brutal, sacrificial way. They seemed called to a common, loving mission: winning. I had one mission: survival. I expressed in grades and school, but I was on the down low in school. But school, now, was far away, in a grimey abandoned home in a failing city. But it had football.

Opposites attract. For reasons unclear then, and now, I found mission in sacrifice.

I knew I was terrible, but I did not know how bad I was until the first day of summer practice. I was rocked – sandpaper had be hard set to my balsa wood body. It was a very bad season of errors and pain.

But I found dignity in open incompetence – but focused on the possibility of being better. But there was only one way to get better: sacrifice. Any pride was the first victim, then comfort, then I lost entrapment.

In the Buffalo mud I could try, fail, fail again, but not give up, I could remain, in the team, broken and hurt – but not lost. I could be a total loser in sacrifice. There was no gain, only belonging. I may have been lame, but I was not alone out there.

“I am the wrestling coach” said the Offensive Co-Ordinator as I turned in my equipment. I knew I needed to please him. So I showed up at the Wrestling Barn the next week.

So began a two year focus on sacrifice. If I was a terrible football player, I was a worse wrestler. But the coach knew how to lift weights, and weight was the central focus of all wrestlers. He demanded getting stronger, and losing weight: I did. And lost every match over two years.

But each pound, each lift was between me and myself: my family was away. It hurt, it was humiliating, but it got better. I learned that sacrifice was not masochism: there was mission in failure.

It got better. There were transactions of time, effort, learning and change. I could find a different place. I needed to. I was not “perfect” the way I was – I was desperately unhappy.

Failure is everywhere, every day: nothing is “perfect”. It wasn’t in my Mad Men life in suburbia, it was not in Buffalo. But it could get better. If things are “perfect” there is no sacrifice. If there is no sacrifice there is no mission: despite GaGa “I was born this way” until I changed.