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Welcome to Saved by Design

June 3, 2019

New Stuff:

In Random Stuff:  Justification

In Home Page: HOME STYLE: WHY?

In Absence: “Good” is not the “G” in TGIF

In Left To Myself : Graduation

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


June 15, 2019

The first Father’s Day happened in 1910 – 6 months after my father was born.

Like all male humans my father was a son. But his mother died 6 months after that first Father’s Day, in the secret attempt not to continue to bear another child with my grandfather. My Dad never had the father the culture celebrates today.

He was sent to live with two unmarried sisters of his father in Canada until he was 6. That absence shaped him, so deeply that I am pretty sure he never dealt with it. Except to drink, a lot, for the last 60 years of his life.

In turn, he was never the celebrated Father of his children. He made money that fully housed, schooled and clothed his entire family to the high standards that the Mid-Century required. But, in the end, he simply had no facility at loving his children. He did for us, but it was a burden, not his joy.

Joy was jazz, dancing, the law, his wife, golf – but by the time I became aware that he was a human, distinct from “Daddin”, he had lost all of those joys. His first two offspring somehow were not what he expected. They were not Ivy League Material, despite the private schools. They were not intellectual. They grew scared of him, as by the time they were beyond innocence he was drinking very effectively every night.

As those first children left the brutality of a tough home, I simply kept my head down. I had little else to do. Piano lessons after six months simply stopped, summer camp after two blissful July’s in the mid 1960’s simply ended. No explanation. Sports, or activities beyond school were just not part of my early life. Yard work was done, we went to see the Harlem Globetrotters and the circus once a year. My birthday was a $20 bill. I was along for his coping.

Once I was 300 miles away, sent to high school, football, acting, writing, exploded. But my father lived alone for half his time, the other half with my visiting mother. He spent two weeks in August in the summers, visiting my brother and I in Buffalo those high school years. Then nothing, save paying my way, until he didn’t. One college visit (even though I went to his beloved alma mater), and then, well, grace.

I was without money, had to draw the thesis I had gotten a degree with, but I had not executed the “presentation drawings” the degree required, and I was honor bound to fulfill that promise. That meant a six week, full time exercise. My parents took me in. I could have gone to the house in Buffalo, and honestly I do not know why I did not. Except that they were my parents, there, in the home I grew up in.

After a decade away, he still was fully drunk by 7:30PM, having started at 6:30, 7 minutes after his Hudson Harlem Line train pulled into the Dobbs Ferry Station. But he was not mean, even angry, mostly. He was almost 70. He would be dead in 10 years.

My father’s college end was fully unfettered, like me, as his father also paid for his education, gave him work where he worked at the Carlin Construction Company, to the point that when my father declared that he would no longer be working there, as he had been admitted into law school, my grandfather “kicked him out of the house,”

That must have been in my father’s mind, when he silently accepted my presence in the fall of 1978.

My grandfather died the year I was born. The mysteries of how a thrice married, non-drinking man, with two other children by his second wife thought of my father are completely unknown.

So the sadness of parental confusion was great with me, until my wife and I dared to have children of our own, two sons. Their vulnerability, absolute dependence, full fragility was completely terrifying. What my father and grandfather saw as a thing to be dealt with and paid for, on his terms, his children, was the largest vulnerability I could imagine.

If I lost touch, erred, simply passively accepted life around them, my wife and I would be wholly culpable, fully guilty, with no extenuating make-up calls.

So we over-parented.

In perfect Boomer Helicoptering we determined every blessed bit of two young boys’ lives. I am guessing that our too much was, net-net, better than the alternative. But endless practices, auditions, events, performances, conferences, reading out loud every night (including every Harry Potter book as they came out) meant that we, somehow, prevented history from repeating itself. Or at least, my wife and I did no harm.

Both sons returned to see us Father’s Day, as they do Mother’s Day. I cannot see the merit of celebrating what should be automatically part of every day, like breathing, eating, sleeping. National Sleep Day does not do it for me. But they come, and it is a good thing.

But as my father was a mystery to me, and his to him, I pray to God, and I write these things, so that I am no mystery to them. Families live in full appreciation of each others’ flaws, and in full hope of their virtues.

Guessing at what a Father is is still coping. Instead, for almost 30 years, I have lived through children becoming men. I do not think we got in the way.


June 6, 2019


It was, maybe, 2AM.

I awoke from my usual night terror, and stayed awake. So I silently looked at my phone.

A few days earlier I had been put on the list of those getting posts from a young woman I met briefly, once, a decade or more before, at a convention where I talked, that she attended with her father, an architect. She was, objectively, the vision of mid twenties: tall, funny, as visually compelling as you might imagine.

She friended me on Facebook. Over the next years, I found notices of new jobs, locations, men in her life. No communication other than observation. We occasionally “Liked” what was offered by each of us.

But then a great job, a great love, marriage, a child. All the while humor and the beauty of a vibrant, young, family as only the gloss of the Internet affords, fully false intimacy, relegated to the 2D.

So when I got the 3AM notification Friday, I clicked upon it to find she was very, very sick. And her friends had scoured her sites and asked people to support her. I sent some Coach Aphorism, and went to try to sleep.

Then another, a couple of days later. She was in the hospital. Then another note, with a picture of her, she was in a week of rapid fire chemo, fully hooked up, holding her exquisite baby boy in her arms.


But I knew I had no role here.

Then Tuesday, a cry from the woman went out to the world:


”I want to talk about anger. I am angry. I’m angry at this giant life interruption, at this battle for my health. It’s hard to not think, Why NOW? I’ve met and married the love of my life. We have a beautiful child together that we adore. We bought our dream house in our dream city and I love my job more than any other job that I’ve ever had – I plan to be there for decades. The past few days, I’ve been seething in a quiet rage, and I’m realizing how much a part of the grief process this feeling is. There is never a “right” time for this to happen. Only this battle, right now. And I’m scared of failing.”

Once again, after the nightly nightmare, at perhaps 4AM, This response to her just came out of me:

“The hardest lesson (one I never learn, but I understand more as time passes) is that the transactional basis of our lives (earning what I have, deserving what I get) belies the fact that we are owed nothing because we never worked or studied or paid our way into life: it was given to us.

The insane complexity of our bodies and minds was not the product of our effort. Life is to me the unmerited Grace of things I cannot understand. Pain, sorrow, victimization, injustice – just plain inexplicable cruelty – is never deserved, but it is unavoidable.

The other truth is that you do not earn love by acts but it is yours and yours to give. Love is as unnecessary as cruelty, but humans uniquely have these things in every life.

What is left is what you are doing: kicking ass, being unrelenting, accepting and giving love. For me this is all a gift, I earned none of it, I cannot be grateful for the unfair things, but I cannot explain or even understand the overwhelming Grace of life itself either.

I define that Grace as God, but the obvious love all around you is a gift no cruelties of unmerited pain take away: you are loved.”

I have no idea if she has seen this, her friends have. And she has finished a week of Leukemia Hell Chemo. Then more over the next weeks.

There is nothing I can do but pray. In fact I am not sure I did much. Those words just flew out of my fingers at 4AM, no editing save one missing word.

I do not get this. She is basically being victimized by, what? No bad behavior, no malevolent acts, no reason. No reason.

But there is love in response. From her husband, baby, friends and someone she barely knows.

But most importantly, God.

Please, help her.

Will God Live?

June 4, 2019


Six months ago, after 6 months of editing, this piece was published. It was well received, seemingly the most popular of pieces in this “B Roll” side of a great small magazine. It was nearing 300 shares, so I retweeted it. Last night.

And received this unhappy reply from a great cleric:

“It is discouraging/annoying/distressing to read an article like this which rehearses the oh-so-well-known stats (I’m in New England) and offers counterstrategies without ever even mentioning the Lord Jesus Christ, his incarnation, crucifixion, resurrection, and living presence.”

And her acolytes are responding in relative force (a few dozen “likes” of her distress – huge in this weeny world of my cyber presence) some retweeting her annoyance.


The answer is that 90% of those who saw the word “God” in this title and were either bemused, annoyed, or simply did not read any further. Religion has become irrelevant to a majority of those under 50 here, and in many parts of America and all of Europe, even for those who bewail the burning of Notre Dame. This is a reality, not just the stats that I cite and describe as being “cliche” in the piece.  There are 3 responses to any change in reality, like religion’s:

1) Keep doing what you are doing, the truth will out.

2) Follow the change, in this case leave any connection to what is being rejected.

3) Change what you are doing, where you can, and see if that responds to the change.

In this piece so fully “discouraging’ I cite 6 folk who are doing number 3:

”Before you stop reading, this is not another hand-wringing article that bewails change or extols hope in florid church speak. Please suspend judgment. I am not addressing rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic. The Episcopal Church has to be a different thing in this next century to survive, while maintaining all the beauty it offers. It is easy to curse the darkness or think magically; it is harder to act. People are acting to find the Next Church, and I have attempted to find direction in their efforts.”

I assume she did not stop reading, but those quoted are among the folk that follow, devotedly, the “Lord Jesus Christ, his incarnation, crucifixion, resurrection, and living presence.”

She clearly did not want to hear, yet again, that her life, also spent in full devotion, should listen to an uneducated, non-cleric citing how the reality we both love, the Episcopal Church, was in a free fall from relevance in more and more peoples’ lives. It is DEFCON 5 for those of us who know God, and hope that that reality can have meaning in any life beyond our own.

The fact that the “Lord Jesus Christ, his incarnation, crucifixion, resurrection, and living presence.” is transformative and compelling as offered to the world, 2,000 years after his existence, is at the essence of many lives I love dearly. In truth, quietly, for mine, too.

But that is not the problem.

The problem is pretty simple: the reality of all 20th Century, mainline, religions, is simply so irrelevant and toxic to so many people for whatever reason (and you will be told those reasons, should you ask) that it is being swept away by unprecedented cultural change. It is not debatable. But the reality the cleric spoke of is also completely true: God, Jesus, is literally there, everywhere completely independent from the Canon, rituals, really great music, incredible people who preach. 24/7. With no mediator.

As one cleric told me, in every church, in every one of the scores that she visits every year, that an elderly parishioner has implored her, “Please, please, just promise me that this church will last long enough so that I can be buried here.”

I know that no one escapes God, but anyone can choose not to deal with Him, maybe even unto death. But as I say in the piece “The fact that you and I are no better or worse than anyone else is simply true. The truth of love in our lives is the essence of beauty: if we can laugh, or find joy in a baby or the smell of baking bread, we are on the edge of knowing God in our lives.”

You can easily deny the church, you can not deny these things.

That universal solvent of humanity, our creation by something that has more knowledge everyday behind it, but less and less clarity of where the hell this all came from, has no need of a degree or collar. All the school, training, social meaning, life purpose is deeply, fully personal, as it should be. But getting checks from that dedication, however small, is simply not the same as writing checks, however small, to express your devotion.

There is clearly a split.

I am not talking about between those believing in Jesus and those who whistle past any sense there is nothing more important than the factoids of our personal and cultural lives. No, there is a split, perhaps a growing one, between those who see the validity of the secular world’s disaffection with the often tone deaf realities of all pre-21st century’s realities when facing a weird new world soon completely changed by technology. Clearly others think a transcendent God in the form of Jesus avoids this world’s distracting evolutions in its purity and truth.

I wish that were true: but the full technological remake of civilization is sweeping and changes the way we perceive everything, even how Jesus finds us. The change is universal, not just religious.

I think it is why we have the president we have.

I think it is why my profession, architecture, will be completely changed, perhaps found to be a fully different existence in a generation, by those studying, now (who I teach).

Just like architecture schools, with paid faculty, the veneration of the condemned reality that the students are paying huge sums to partake in, simply invents a happy future for those who will never, ever, have a career designing buildings (statistically true).

I know I have only the credibility of the devoted. My endless work helping scores of churches to survive, that I donate my services to, walks this talk, a talk, here, that is also unpaid.

Read the article. “Like” the piece.”Share”.

The only cure for change is truth.




June 2, 2019

Recent Work

Progress in Greenwich


 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: For the Love of Money: The Metronome to Human Life

In Mockingbird: Is Nothing Sacred?

In Common Edge: Hudson Yards and Notre-Dame: A One Two Punch of Megalomania

In Common Edge: Notre Dame: An Architect’s Notes on Building, Belief and the Power of Architecture

In Mockingbird: Rebuilding What We Never Made: Notre Dame

In Mockingbird: REPENT!

In Mockingbird: The Death of Control

In Common Edge: Is the Culture of Architecture Becoming More Profane?

In The New Haven Register: Gehry Turns 90 and New Haven Rediscovers His Presence

In Common Edge: Style Wars Are Increasingly Irrelevant As Things Change

In Common Edge: Confusion of the Vanities: Why Architectural Style Wars Are Becoming Irrelevant

In Mockingbird: I Am Not Karl Lagerfeld

In Common Edge: Why “Zaha Hadid Activewear” Feels Off-Brand

In Mockingbird: We Are Suddenly Surrounded By Dead Trees

In Common Edge: Why Do Architects Remain Obsessed with Flat Roof?

In The New Haven Register: The Yale Armory is No More

In The New Haven Register: The ‘Story of Church Street South’ in a Yale exhibit

In Covenant: The Next Church

In Mockingbird: Aaron Rodgers Failing at Family

In Common Edge: When Buildings Are Shaped More By Code Than Architects

In Mockingbird: The Canon That Crushed Richard Meier

In Common Edge: The Kids are Alright: How the Great Recession Shaped This Generation’s Entry into Architecture

In Mockingbird: A Message From Jesus

In Common Edge: Life, Death and the End of the 20th Century Architecture

In Common Edge: Architectural Criticism That’s Not Just For Architects

In Mockingbird: The Undeserved Vacation: The New Sabbath

In Mockingbird: Bedside and the Lord’s Prayer

In Common Edge: In the Era of Artificial Intelligence, Will Architecture Become Artisanal?

In Mockingbird: The Gift of Profanity

In Common Edge: An Architect’s Devotion and Determination is Often a Project’s Make or Break Factor

In Mockingbird: Violence & Faith

In Mockingbird: …Mistakes Were Made…

In Common Edge: What a New Botox Commercial Says About the Public’s Perception of Architecture

In Common Edge: Architecture Ignores History at its Own Peril

In Common Edge: Why Homes are the Original Architecture

In Mockingbird: A Letter of Recommendation

In Mockingbird: Nothing Means as Much

In Common Edge: Michelangelo’s Lesson: Specialization in Architecture is Not the Only Way



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



June 1, 2019


We built our home 35 years ago. The land was cheap because access to the site was tough. The approved site plan used to market the land showed a 24×40 box set up on fill, on level with the common driveway.

That fill would  cost and separation from the backyard salt marsh would be pretty brutal, too – as were the 22.5% variable rate mortgages we could qualify for in our late 20’s.

So I ventured that a 5ft drop over 20ft could be “managed”. Well, 4ft could (we graded down 1ft at the uphill side and raised the fill at the house 1ft.) And I could fake it, too: as the drive curved to make its effective length 30ft, and we then could come in under the code maximum of a 15% driveway pitch. So we did.

But that triumph of persistence was equaled in my own subjective hubris when I then decided to save another $5K (back then) by installing a gravel driveway instead of a more permanent paved version. No code there. But there was washout with any heavy rain.

An added concrete trough drain cost $1K of the $5k saved, but only staunched light rain erosion. Heavy rains continually wrecked the tamped-in gravel drive in the straight downhill run…

But I loved and love the soft, crunchy, tire-gripping gravel over the smooth, suburban lock-in of blacktop. And when we had to replace a defective water line and then string an electronic dog fence across our permeable gravel drive, I was validated.

And wrong.

Any rational human would have bit the bullet, paved the steep part in some way, and lived on these last 30 years.

But no. I saw the rain-ravaging ravenes as providing a perfect place for unseen blacktop infill via 40 pound bags, easily purchased across the street from my office. Once covered by gravel residue, all was invisible. Sort of.

So driveway repair became a home mantra. Endlessly.

This morning, perhaps the 20th (or 30th) careful insinuation into the eroded driveway slits happened. 2 hours, including car-tamping. It is done. And never done.

The impossibility of control is not just metaphoric, it is essential. The act of filling happens  less and less frequently as more and more of the driveway has a deeper and deeper substraight of blacktop. But Nor’easters dump serious rain. So what was a yearly task for the first dozen years is now done every 2 or threes years. Or every year, if the rain, like this year, is intense enough.

So I am controlled by the driveway, not the other way ’round.

Somehow the effort is validating because it is made, while it is known to be ultimately futile. Senseless, but true.

My will is fraudulently inveighed, temporarily, over physics for a sugar high of control, that inevitably burns off to a sad lack of control, despite effort.

In this way, I “rage against the dying of the light” despite its inevitability. This is not an act of Zen: endlessly replacing the washed out gravel with infilled blacktop. Rather I think each intense spate of labor is a victory. Which is is inevitably defeated, but it is still a victory.

The inability to find solace in perspective is my sentence. Every new building I see around me is just another architecture job that I did not get. But I keep trying: impossible competitions, unlikely projects, sometimes just bad ideas. And mostly I know that the inevitable reality of lost hopes does not subdue my desire to fill each and every ravine in my driveway, even tho I know it is, ultimately, inadequate.

As am I, inadequate against the dying of the light.

But I rage.




May 20, 2019


Living near New Haven, Connecticut, it is impossible to avoid the annual freak show that is Yale’s graduation.

Always before Memorial Day. Always elbowing away Townies. Always a competitive joust of cars, humans and dinner reservations.

I am now old enough that we have been to a bunch of these weird events of our children. Huge time, effort and money has been dedicated, either earned and spent, or yet to be spent repaying debt. In the more rarified places like Yale, humans parachute in from everywhere in the world to declare victory. As a group, they are entitled, befuddled and indescribably proud. The most obvious box in a parent’s life has been checked off – child  launched.

Their kids are fully full of themselves. The campus is sparkling, The ceremonies are gowned and often ponderously bloated in created import and projected meaning. Families, money, time, age, legacies, all swirl together in a stew of uniquely human construction.

Unless you opt out.

I did not go to my two graduations. First, architecture students take five years to get their degree at a BArch school, so those students often attend their fellow, but not architecture majored, classmates’ ceremonies. I did not, even for good friends. I did not even think to.

I now understand why I didn’t, even though I was there, in Ithaca 42 years ago, earning a living. It just did not matter to me, perhaps because it did not matter to my parents, who actually went there 35 years prior.

Survival is preemptive. In 1978, my parents had survived 33 years of marriage, a world war, two previous children who did not graduate much. My sister did not graduate from her elite prep school, let alone even matriculating into a college. My brother did graduate from Dobbs Ferry High (altho I have no memory of a ceremony), and he then dropped out of college after years of not-so-much caring or effort.

But amid all of this, my parents were fully consumed by coping with alcohol and Mid-Century Perfornance criteria that left my father, a Wall Street Lawyer, feeling somehow failed in a sea of resume success and scotch.

My high school graduation was different. A full on ceremony, in nice clothes. It was a moment when things were by a script that had been handed to my parents 30 years earlier, and in me, at least, they could perform their roles.

But survival is, most typically, individual. Their battles fully enflamed my little life, until I was shipped off to go to high school in Buffalo, and mostly left to myself. The private high school had a sea of things for parents to do, but my mother went to one play and one football game that I was in. My father went to that one game. So, similarity, although alums, my parents visited me once in 5 years in college although they regularly passed within a hundred miles of it in road trips between Buffalo and Westchester County.

When it takes your full attention to cope, happiness is less of an issue.

Graduations are, in a sense, the end of one type of coping. My guess, after 20 years of both my parents’ death, is that coping was deemed fully necessary in their lives. Survival was a reality writ stark and abiding in lives of reaction, not circumspection, let alone hope, or even faith.

So when I realized that I had to make enough money to pay off my $2,300 outstanding bill at Cornell, as my father would not underwrite the bank note, and my co-signer was nervous that he would be stuck with the bill, it was a no brainer to become a deep sea scallop fisherman at $1,000 every 10 day cruise.

So, despite my relative small size, effeminate contenance, graduation from the 8th grade, and having no outstanding felony warrants for my arrest, I fit in with the crew, did my job, and did not die.

One sunny day on my last trip out, I was in the deck, filling the steel wire basket with Dinner Plate Scallops 22 miles out to sea off New Jersey, and looked down at my watch and realized that at that moment, my classmates were getting their diplomas.

I chuckled and went back to making money.

Pride needs confidence. I had barely gotten out of college, albeit a semester early. I had wrecked one relationship with a woman and would do it again in a few months, I had no relationship with any relative, including my parents. I was alone in a boat.

But, at 22, I knew I was surviving. There would be $100 bills at the end of the trip, I would end this and go on.

41 years later, money is still an issue, but graduations are done,

It is clear to me that celebrations are simply not part of who I am. Survival might have invalidated that part of my life. Getting what we earn, what we deserve, is not something for me to be proud of, it is simply transactional. But, for most, effort done is cause for celebration.

All those Yale parents and their spawn know how to do that today.

I wish I knew how.