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Welcome to Saved by Design

January 15, 2019

New Stuff:

In Random Stuff:  The Truth


In Left To Myself : Keeping Score

In Not (As) Fat: One Meal A Day

In Finding Home: what…where

In The Rules: Between Rocks & Hard $$$

In Silence In Spring : Astonishing…

In Days ’till Spring : 40 Days


February 20, 2019


45 years after the fact, I still feel a twinge of something. In 1972: I felt the spark of anger that enflamed into primal violence at a practice in Buffalo, New York.

A kid who did not want to be there on the field with me was pretty appealing to a female who was pretty appealing to me. I loathed him simply for those facts. I was 17. There was a mid-century drill where players formed a single line, facing forward, and the two at the back of the line faced the front and at the whistle launched to the front of the line. If you got there first and kept the other from your side by, well, knocking him down – you won.

This time, the kid who was liked by the girl I liked was in front of me. At that whistle all those years ago, I saw white hatred explode, and although I was pretty slow I ran and launched hard enough that I hit him with every ounce of my 187 pounds, hitting his hips at a dead horizontal, in full uncoiled explosion, propelling him (and me) 5 yards away from the point of impact.

I thought I had killed him.

Within less than a second I was first exultant, then terrified, then guilty.

Until he jumped up and took his place at the head of the line, while I recovered on the ground, got up and joined him.

I have yet to recover from the truth that for a bit of a second it gave me great joy to think I had taken him out. In every other of the 1,000’s of violent collisions I had I was either protecting another player (I was an offensive lineman) or staunching an assault by others on my team (I was also a linebacker). Here, I wanted to end the presence of a kid I did not know. Incoherent hate, full blown.

I do not know what to do with that, even today. Maybe especially now. I have grown to live a faith in God I have always had, but simply accepted. Now in my life as an architect, writer, husband and Dad I simply try to do what I hope is in full connection to the God I know, and that Jesus who I know can be pissed and human, too. But Jesus never played ball.

And many of those I dearly love virtually hate football. Many more view the game with extreme ignorance, even suspicion. Football creates projectiles of our bodies. It hurts almost every human on the field, a little or a lot, on almost every play. It is not as dangerous as riding a motorcycle, but many want to outlaw it. Those “in the know” view it with a disgust akin to bacon or smoking. Football to them represents the very worst in us: violence and danger – often in self-destruction. It is a unique human expression that angers and causes fear in those who do not feel the bonds of love and devotion its joyous exercise gives to those who “get” it.

I am fully profane and human, too. My love of those kids I sweat with as a player and a coach in a sport that is supremely violent, often brutally vicious is almost unequaled in these intervening decades, because devotion can be more extreme when understanding is limited in youth.

But the bloodlust we all feel, remains a mystery.


February 17, 2019

“Beauty” can be a four letter word for fine arts sensibilities of any sort. The intellectualization of aesthetic innovation is particularly daunting when it comes to our essentials: preciously artisanal food, bizarre high fashion clothing, and the ambience and design of our homes.

In the last few years, science has begun to understand that “beauty” is not a learned value of a civilization, but a hard-wired essential element in heredity. Some in the world of aesthetics see a direct connection to how we design with how humans perceive “beauty”: and when it comes to architectural design the elemental simplicity of what deeply moves all humans should not be ignored as nostalgia or pandering, but rather that baseline truth needs to be used in the creation of where we live or we fail our humanity.

Home has 3 thought leaders in the New World of Beauty, a world that lived before the Academy, and a human reality that exists independent of abstract construction or rationalization. That is is not always what designers can control, or reveal: it may be that “beauty” is a reality that is revealed to designers through the eyes, hearts and minds of those who use their designs.

Join HOME PAGE for an hour of finding Beauty where we have always lived:

Joining first is Martin Pedersen, who created a forum for new ideas in design, The Common Edge Collaborative,  which has become a pace where ideas of a Beauty Based architectural ethic are being discussed. Pedersen is executive director of Common Edge, a not-for-profit web site decided to public engagement in architecture and planning. A critic, author and journalist, Pedersen served as executive editor at Metropolis Magazine for nearly a decade and a half. He lives in New Orleans. 

A multi-discipline academic, Dr. Nikos A. Salingaros is Professor of Mathematics at the University of Texas at San Antonio, is on the faculty of the Building Beauty Program, and has held guest professorships in Architecture at the Delft University of Technology, Tecnológico de Monterrey, Querétaro, Mexico, and Università di Roma III. He is an internationally recognized architectural theorist and urbanist, who has worked with Christopher Alexander and others at defining and exploring the realities of beauty that have often been unaddressed in teaching design..

Donald H. Ruggles, , AIA, NCARB, ICAA, has just written  Beauty, Neuroscience & Architecture, and is president of Ruggles Mabe Studio, a design firm based in Colorado. Founded in 1970, the firm is dedicated to the idea that beauty can improve the lives of its clients. The firm’s projects have been featured in publications throughout the U.S. and Europe, and has received numerous awards for its work and dedication to the industry. Deeply involved in the Institute of Classical Architecture and serves on the Board of Advisors for the University of Colorado Denver College of Architecture and Planning and on the Board of Advisors for the Center of Advanced Research for Traditional Architecture.





Vanishing Subtlety

February 17, 2019

I wrote a piece yesterday. In focusing, hard, on getting the 1,000 words right in a circumscribed amount of time, I realized I could not remember how to spell “subtlety” and my “Autocorrect” didn’t either. I had attempted spelling so poorly that the entire Artificial Intelligence Universe could not enjoy the great glee of correcting me.


Metaphor is dangerous. Symbolism is often self serving. But in the last generation perhaps millions of human editors no longer edit. Once of the reasons I was motivated to be correct in this draft was this piece had one of the surviving editors.

That loss of another eye, dare I say, an objective eye, has meant that our verbal cuisine has lost modifiers. Like fast food, our language has either become as bland as a Quarterpounder, or as overwrought as a flavored potato chips. We have all the calories of prose communication but none of the nutrition.

So we grow fat.

And screaming.

There is no subtlety because we have lost the value of thoughtful communication in favor of Reality TV.

I am beyond amused when aghast reporters wail, gnash and moan at the intellectually monosyllabic syntax of our President. All the while these same virtual editors, with self-righteous gravity, look directly into a video machine as if it were a human, and offer cultural salvation declaring that lies, ego and bluster have completely ruined Western Civilization.

So much for subtlety.

Instead we have emogi’s. We have buttons that “Like”. Or “Share”. Or “Block”. We do not think, we react. We judge. We surf our own wave, never paddling out to another.

Hyperbole gets those “Share”’s, not subtlety. We are Pavlov’s dogs begging for the petting of “likes” in a universe that has no questions beyond the click.

So fewer read, more click.

With the subtlety of a binary switch, “Like” or “Block” are the reactions to tweets, messages or shares. The physical universe is collapsing to a two-dimensional reality that is slowly killing the 3rd Dimension of subtlety.

Life changes, subtly or on the Internet.

The Truth

February 15, 2019

“I do try. I always want to tell the truth. When I can, I tell the truth.” Donald Trump, November 2018

The truth is absolute because it is reality.

But the truth is relative because the truth referred to can be perception. So the endlessly aghast exasperation of those seemingly outraged at difference proclaim “LIES!” by those who have a different point of view that is not yet proven.

Astrology is, to me, wholly impossible, untrue and inhuman – dictating fate due to the arbitrary reality of your date of birth. But very educated, very intelligent people believe that your birth sign determines aspects of who you are. On its face absurd. But truth for billions.

The last few years it is clear that the expectations of defendabilty and all the oathed rationalizations reflecting an unltimate view of what is important for America has simply changed.

The person who got enough votes in the right places, won. Despite the fact most voting for him were polled to reveal that he was not someone they liked.

Part of what was liked was that Donald Trump has never changed. He says what gets him what he wants, and since what he wants is The Ultimate Truth, he may be the most human of Presidents. The Lizard Brain is one of Cause and Effect: so the Desire is the Truth. There is no higher purpose, meaning or goal than manifesting what you want.

So those outraged by him are overcome with loathing for the way he is, for 50 years. His bizarre honesty about his reality was on full blast when he calmly said at or near the time of his announcement of his candidacy – before the election – “I can walk out of this studio, right now, shoot someone, in Times Square, and not get arrested.”

He is the manifestation that beyond those we physically deal with, life has become what was TV in MidCentury and is now become the screens we continuously look at on all our devices. We Link. We Like. We Share. We Emoji. We have no idea if any of it is reality, true, or where it is going, or means.

So many apply meaning to this ephemeral glow we obsess over. Three severely flawed men in Virginia relied on the new culturally ephemeral expectations of reality and are still running the state after huge errors are writ large in that realm.

And no one paid attention to the deep pervasive reality that lies beneath everything Donald Trump does or says – an open, expressed, dare I say, honest, statement that is not revelation, it is just reality “I do try,” he told ABC News in an interview, “I always want to tell the truth. When I can, I tell the truth.”

He will tell the truth if it coincides with what it wants. The Great Captain Kirk once completely destroyed Artificial Intelligence on Star Trek by declaring “Everything I say is a lie. If everything I say is I lie than I must be telling the truth when I say I lie.”

We were amazed and entertained as the cardboard prop had smoke bombs go off and NOMAD (I think) self destructed because the reality of truth is that it is relative, thus not always objective, thus, well, not always real.

Now we have scores of folk declaring with great solemnity that that are the beacons of A Greater Truth, Goodness, against the Evil of the present reality. The problem is that all of us, all of us, are living lives that have a set of values we reinforce and act on. And they are not always true.

Those values are not often proven valid. I gained one third of myself by eating one extra Milano a day for 30 years, 80 calories more than eating a calorie level that maintained my weight. I lied that eating healthily had nothing to do with being fat. I lied – to everyone who looked aghast when they saw the mass being larded on.

But time told me the truth. Not just it’s passage into wisdom, but the change from active parenthood to watching young men leading their lives who happen to be our children,

Donald Trump, like me, knows the truth is not always there in objective terms, but, to him, is always there on subjective terms.

I grew up in a family that created truths that made living with a highly functional full-blown alcoholic livable. We made truths of availability, personality, even facts up, and whole-hearted belief in the truth of a family over the reality of deep dysfunction.

The result of these fluid truths was that my sibling led a life of creating truths. That life proved unsustainable as he ended his time in the reality of a world that ultimately cannot be denied.

I honestly do not know if it is better, or worse, to lie and know it, or think Lying is telling the Truth. I need to talk to William Shatner.

Keeping Score

February 6, 2019

We all keep score.

But in this last few years of political and technological upheaval, the unending scorecards are unavoidable. Everything has ratings. Every event is a TV show.

From APGAR to Gallop we are measured: ratings and grades are part of life, including the final grade of living or dying. Making the grade is bad enough, but judging the factoids of others is an easy step away from our own measure.

If everything boils down to passing, failing, excelling, falling short there is no end to inadequacy. No matter how well you perform, others grade out higher than you.

If you give to get, will you ever get enough?

If you receive the unearned, worse, the undeserved, it destroys the ledger of transactional reason. If life is an equation of justice, or karma, or approval the reality of love is simply bogus. No one deserves the love of a child. No one creates that love. No one gives it a grade.

But parents, my parents, can create the Report Card of worth that validates or mocks that love. Performance is necessary for keeping score. We come to give in order to receive, rather than give because we love.

All of the endless elections, economic stats, Pew Poll results pile up worth and failure – high and deep – for all to see the skimming surface of “results”. The binaries of Good and Bad, Win or Lose, Enough or Inadequate end up being scores that make hard Pass/Fail outcomes.

There is less understanding the more judgements are given to us. We wallow in the reinforcement of our conclusions to the point of validating prejudice. I know those who live their lives by the defendable measurables. Hell, I often do. I bet you do too.

But if we turn the screen off and listen, there is far more to live with than the Report Card. If we listen we hear that there are “why’s” as well as “what’s”. “How” is a complex understanding, not a conclusive GO/NO GO reaction.

Reactionary standing up or sitting down in response to the conclusions offered is easy. Consideration is rarer than ever because the huge machine of the Internet-ization of all reality pre-digests the zillions of data points we might consider.

What do we consider before we react? Rather than consider who we are, what we are seeing, we are most often subjected to Click Bait. The grading has been done before we see the Report Card. Our oerfnance is simply reactionary. We only need to react, to “Like” or “Friend’ or ‘Share” to prove our worth, our reality in the sea of robots.

The more the grading cranks on, the more we lose ourselves, and if we are the creation of God, we lose any meaning beyond what that grading tells us. We simply fall into the deafening maelstrom of keeping score.

We stop listening. To ourselves. To others. To something more than the moment. We know the score, but we do not know more.

We live in the screens we oggle. Fed by them, but unaware of the hunger we all have to be loved because the grading is constant and transfixing.

The first IPhone came out a decade ago. It was a gateway drug to an addiction to grading with every Swipe Right/Swipe Left. We become important because the New World tells us so. We are the score that is kept. Our swipes and clicks are recorded like each and every hair is known by God. But despite all preoccupation the InterWebNets are not God. Oh, and if you believe in something more important than us, God made that InterWebNet hole we have fallen into.

But life is not fair, Karma is incidental to creating the balance sheet that defines it. There is no reason a baby should or shouldn’t die. Why we are loved by that baby.

No Instagram reaction is a reason to love, and there are very few, if any, reasons to hate with the finality our Score Cards impose on all of us.

As the sides of the aisle rise and fall, clap and Boo, shout or sit in stony derision, the dialogue becomes monosyllabic.

“Right” and “Wrong’ is necessary to make our world safe, simple laws of protection, basic moral norms are part of making life livable. But the extension of these laws into the vagaries of our own lives, the love of others, the way we see ourselves is dehumanizing, but worse, it kills the validity of unmerited love.

Whether I like it or not, I am loved.

I can not justify it. I cannot disprove it.

I can try to ignore it, explain it, invalidate it. But love is as real as beauty. If we grade beauty, we lose it. Keeping score on joy ends it.

The painful grotesqueries of politics, shrill justifications of fear or nauseating comfort of self-righteousness are being fed to bursting in this world we have wrought.

I think I need to live more in the world I do not understand, the world of unmerited love. It is hard to justify. And that is the point.

Money Is A Bad Joke

January 24, 2019

We paid for our children’s undergraduate college education.

That meant, one way or another, 30 years of cobbling together over $300,000 of cash. After taxes. In the meantime we took parenting seriously, and to us, that meant making how we make money allowing time to “be there” for our childrens’ lives.

That meant part time for my wife, my own architectural office for me (oh, and my ego was fed as well). So we knew there would never be enough money. And there has not been.

In making 1,500 payrolls without laying off an employee, I have been obsessed to the point of PTSD about money. And, perversely, for reasons I blame on my Lord And Savior, fully ¼ to 1/3 of what our office does starts out as pro bono for those who cannot afford what God has given me the ability to do: make buildings.

So Habitat, homeless shelters, churches, synagogues, Quaker Meeting Halls, summer camps, home town efforts all have gotten, no joke, $1M of services over the last 30 years, in direct competition for the 9 years of undergraduate tuition costs.

So cash in king – often a penniless one.

Each payday for my 5 employees, the depressing math is done, in my head, and my basic apprehension of my own spiritual net worth nosedives into malfeasance. I simply can never, ever, make enough money to feel validated by my income.

In truth, besides a Bezos or two, none of us are nourished by our cash. Money is the primary vehicle for full on inadequacy in this world. Everything has a price tag, every account has a balance, and the two almost never, ever make me fell happy clappy.

Faith in love or justice or simply in a marriage or for a child has a fluid scale of validation: sometimes fully joyful, sometimes despondent: But in money the joys are rare, because there is no end to our wants. Conversely, there is no lack of despondency when dealing with money because there is never an absence of need. So fear and inadequacy are deliriously dancing with money in my life.

This intractable debt forces faith.

My inadequacies are here, now and as real as my account balance. With each bill there is an indictment in the faith that made the bill in the first place. The college tuition, taxes, payroll, all of it are never joyfully overcome, their threat has simply be held at bay until the next bill comes due.

I have been terrorized enough by the corporal training of the fiscal violence of capitalism that receiving gifts is often difficult. Where is the bill for all that I have been given? There is no bill.

But everything has a bill, and I pay it. Except love. When I am loved I feel in debt, even though there is no bill. Transactions are an unending part of all our lives. Starting with money.

But God never sends a bill. Ever. I get it.


January 23, 2019


We change our homes. We see what others are doing – on the web, in books, in person: We keep up with the Joneses. Why? The hype of media drives all fashion, but working on your home takes the largest parts of our wallets, and time. Entire chains of big box stores respond to huge trends from “color of the year” to Hygge

But humans have always changed their homes: since they have had homes: which is from the get go. Some call it “styles”, others “aesthetics”, but it is really about many realities that have nothing to do design, architecture, even construction. Technology brought bathrooms into our homes. Central heating made fireplaces decorative. Climate change makes temperature control a front and center part of home design. West Nile Virus and melanoma encourage screen porches. 

Did the two career family create the “open” floor plan with the Altar of the Kitchen: the Island (now berated) from a website that exists to follow trends: But our homes should be about Each Of Us: NOT fashion: How do we get control of our homes from the trends?

HOME PAGE talks to those who can “out” why we follow trends by understanding what they are and where they come from: joining us are 3 people who have dedicated themselves to how our lives are reflected in our homes:

Jason Bischoff-Wurstle is the Director of Photo Archives at the New Haven Museum, but he is also a lover of the history of home, and also a Board Member of the Board of The New Haven Preservation Trust NHPT. Jason has created many of the New Haven Museum’s most interesting exhibits, connecting the past with the people of today. Jason’s latest exhibit “Daymarks 1872” which opened in December, highlights New Haven’s social history as reflected through the changes in the city’s skyline, is currently on view at the New Haven Museum.

John Milnes Baker is an award-winning architect who specializes in Residential Design  He was a 2018 recipient of Marquis Who’s Who Albert Nelson Marquis Lifetime Achievement Award as a “leader in the field of architecture.” Mr. Baker is the author of American House Styles: a Concise Guide originally published by W.W. Norton & Co. in 1994. A new expanded edition was published in July 2018. along with How to Build a House with an Architect, published in 1988 by Harper & Row. An adjunct professor he taught courses on the History of the American House at The New School in New York City. 

Barbara Ballinger has been an award-winning journalist for more than 46 years. She started her career at House & Garden’s special publications. For the last 28 years, she has had her own freelance writing business and has co-authored 18 books ,including Suddenly Single after 50: The Girlfriends’ Guide to Navigating Loss, Restoring Hope and Rebuilding Your Life (Rowman & Littlefield). She and Margaret Crane, write a weekly blog,