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August 25, 2015

New Stuff:

In Random Stuff: 1969

In Not (As) Fat: Fat & Drunk

In Finding Home: STYLE is CONTEXT

In The Rules:  HOUZZ Rules 

In Home Page Baby it’s Hot Outside: Temp & Homes 

BABY, IT’S HOT OUTSIDE: temp & homes

August 24, 2015

home page


Home Page takes the temperature of how we get all hot & bothered in and about our homes. Binnie Klein and Duo Dickinson have two guests that give you a clue about how summer swelter can be abated within your home’s walls. First, Blair Richardson comes to Home Page Radio. Blair Richardson is currently a mechanical engineer focusing on heating, air conditioning, and energy efficiency for commercial and residential projects. He is the chair person for the Young Engineers in ASHRAE, a member of the Association of Energy Engineers, and a registered professional engineer.

Second, Home Page may have a special guest: weather guy FOX CT TV’s Matt Scott may jump in (unless the news Gods intervene and he is on a breaking story) for a quick report on how weather patterns have changed and might change, and what hear may be part of our domestic life in the coming years.

The discussion will focus on climate change and home AC design needs. Is it, in fact, getting hotter? How has engineering adapted to a warmer climate? What are some innovations that consumers can use?


August 23, 2015

Scouting Shots for Scouting Shoot:

duoinst6 duoinst1 duoinst2 (1)    duoinst4duoinst3 (1) duoinst5



IMG_2721 copy IMG_2717 copy


As Seen in the New York Times, 12/2/2014



Under Construction

:photo (1)  ________________________________________________________

Recently Completed!

photo (5)


photo (3)photo-1IMG_9634 (1) (Copy)


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.

CEPHAS-Existing-001-copyCephas Ext4aCephas Ext2Cephas PR Dwg4ps


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 Common Ground with Annette Ross:  She asked “Where is Architecture?”, I answered

On HGTV:  Mercedes Home Diaries       Password: mercedes



On Home Page, Binnie Klein & I debut our new radio show. Listen here!

On A Miniature World, Binnie Klein & I discuss springtime striving, mislaid spirituality & the folly of architectural terms. Listen here!


August 21, 2015

My father turned 60 in late December of 1969.

The circumstances of his birthday were complicated that year.

His family had left him to his practice of law by day and to sort stamps and coins by night in Westchester. My mother had bought an unloved home in an unloved neighborhood in downtown Buffalo New York, and putting their 2 sons in it, serially visited us as we went to high school and college, leaving my father 500 miles away.

So my father spent his 60th with his 19 and 14 year old sons and wife knowing they would leave in a few days after New Year’s.

I turn 60 today.

My family has lived in a home we built and expanded and polished for over 30 years, far longer than my father had lived in his home in Westchester. My sons are away in grad school. My wife is with me.

I do not sort things, but I write.

But the hollow footfalls he experienced in abandonment echo in my mind today. He was a man who felt deep failure if perfection was not achieved – in his children, wife, but mostly himself. His coping mechanisms were not unique to him. Before 5 on weekdays (other than August) it was his career. After the train dropped him back home and weekends it was alcohol. And everywhere in between Kent cigarettes.

Clearly his sense of failure did not come from his adult life. First in his family to finish high school, he was #2 in his class at Boys High in Brooklyn, and degrees at Cornell verified his intelligence and drive. his honorable late-in-life military service in World War 2 hobbled his legal career, but he was still a partner in a Wall Street Law Firm thankyou very much.

At age 1 his mother died while having a secret abortion. His father sent him to live with his mother’s sisters in Canada. During his five years with them he would wander off “looking for Mama” on the docks of Toronto – according to the spinster aunts who raised him until he was 6. He had thought his father’s new wife was his mom, until she could no longer keep the secret when he was 16.

Having a hot wife and jazz and booze and hard work filled his pre-fatherhood years: he could dial up enjoyment of the moment to turn away from a sad infancy.

It must have been a bizarre siphon of social necessity that when he returned from the war he abandoned all that (except the alcohol part)and followed the Greatest Generation herd to children and the suburbs. Even weirder was the conception (in full poison-ivy inflammation, according to my over-sharing mother) of a 3rd child when he was 45. Me.

When you feel wrong, made in error, fully misfit, you opt for what others have said is “right”. He loved jazz, booze and loving his sexy young wife, but that veil of distraction was not cutting it after the war.

His misfit became his children’s.

To a degree we, like him, are not-so-proud of much. We do not think about birthdays as celebrating the miracle of life but simply the passage of time. It was not odd to my parents, or my siblings, that none of us had a birthday party after we were 5 or 6. There was cake and gifts (or by the time I was there, $20 to spend in my favorite store), but there is little joy in misfit, save the sense of carrying on despite it.

So my father sat blowing out the candles with his family in 1969 knowing, despite the several drinks he had had, that in a day or two the family he created would leave the life he created for them to the life my mother had to retreat to.

Birthdays are not nothing. But birthdays are not, in themselves, achievements. Your birth was a gift, not a success. Your achieving whatever life you have was not earned, it was given to you by luck, grace and imponderable circumstance that you, hopefully, have taken advantage of.

Being in the here and now is not an entitlement, but the incumbent gratitude for undeserved fortune was never part of our lives growing up. So we addressed birthdays with a resignation of making the best of a bad situation: it was a misfit life, and we must deal with it.

The legacy of the silent passage of time was what my father felt 45 years ago. The lives he had pursued were finished with one that followed no acceptable model, unlike the Ivy, Jazz, Wartime, Suburban/Kid models he had followed for the first 60 years.

He was alone, in a place both made for and by him. I will never know what his sober thoughts were then, and that’s probably a good thing.


August 18, 2015


America is approaching 400,000,000 souls. It has perhaps 70,000,000 viable detached single family homes. The 600,000 new ones built each year for the last couple of years double the nadir of the Housing Bubble Burst, but are perhaps 1/3 of the insane peak a decade ago.

All of these buildings have a “style”. That “style” is just another bullet point to be evaluated when thinking about where to live: like number of bedrooms, amount of land, taxes, school district, and if the place has a garage.

There are perhaps 70,000 licensed architects practicing in America today (out of perhaps 3 times that many who have professional degrees). All of us have done some home design work: its the common currency of design/building of all our friends and relatives. Like back pain for a doctor’s cousin, the home question is a constant talking point for architects.

But perhaps 1/4 of architects earn a full time living doing residential design. We do not fit well well in home design when you consider the millions of remodelings and hundreds of thousands of new homes that are built each year. We are not a “go to” option as architects are used for perhaps 5% of the work done.


We are conceptually inaccessible for most housing consumers. We cost money. We take time. But, more interestingly, we celebrate those who create buildings that have zero connection to context.

Forget about the number of bathrooms, or if there is a garage, we are seen as the missionaries of a cult of affect that endangers one of the bullet points people see on HGTV and HOUZZ: “Style”.

Very few homeowners are intimates of the design process, building codes or construction technology, but they “know” “style” – its a 2D pastiche that is the throw-off bullet point in all shelter media.

But architects obsess about “style”. The correct style wins awards, becomes exhibits, is the focus of 95% of architecture schools, splashes all over architect websites, becomes the “buzz” of a small fine-arts coterie.

But our religion is not worshipped by many.

“Style”, even the most “innovative” Starchitecture, is just context: it is a part of everything around us: it is not a celestial presence in a black void. Institutions, governments or business may love the strut of chest-thumbing hubris of the intentionally one-off tour de force building: but the inevitable failures of functionality, weatherability and cost designing inhabited sculpture are terrifying to most homeowners.

Homes are the biggest investment and biggest risk and 7 years after 30,000,000 homes, 40% of all homes in America, went from profit engines to machines of bankruptcy stylistic experimentation is just not an option for this generation of homeowners.

So a niche profession as perceived by most homeowners becomes a liability, not an inspiration. But architects can see beyond the bullet and talking points and can understand context. Even if it means finding more extreme ways to deny context, architects can see the reality of context better than almost everyone else.

Each home, each resident, each street, each tree on the site IS context. Style is context. “Traditional” is not brain dead, immoral or cynical, nor is “Modern” innovative, truth or the only moral outcome in building. Style is context once buildings are built.

Architects usually treat context as foil, because its easier.

Everyone else treats context as a place that they either like or don’t like: and then buys homes, because they like them, or at least their price tag. Sometimes we are asked to nuke existing home context (Ranches seem to offend), but mostly people have a reason they bought a place to live beyond money and neighborhood.

Listening is harder than talking.

Listening to those you work for, the home they bought, the “style” they combine to create context means creating to evolve context – especially when money, desire or necessity mean renovating rather than building new. Its so much easier to perform in a black box, on a blank slate, looking in the mirror.

Here are a few new efforts to take what is and deal with it, on its terms: “antique”:


Or “Contemporary”:


Or “Colonial”:



These are not aesthetic sound bites, despite the names. These are places where people live and want to make better with scary amounts of money and the ridiculous inconvenience and time in construction. People risk to create homes.

Can architects risk to listen to context, instead of “style”?







August 8, 2015


Work: pry bar of money or misery? Cause of exhaustion or mission? Excuse or inspiration? Work is undoubtly the key method to assert control in our lives.

Its clear that even on vacation, control is of sad importance in my life.

I take one week off a year. This year, like the 19 preceeding it had emails, photos, drawings, faxes and phone calls keep the scores of balls in the air, versus dropped.

I did this to myself: when my employees go on vacation, I bother them not a wit: but I ache to be bothered by them on vacation, and thus I am: so do I benefit from remote control work one week a year as much as total simulation of control back at the office?

In one of those 20 years I have left the office I had to remotely fire someone and thus run his project from my week off: I felt differently the entire next year. I had grown to rely on a reset.

Its not about others, it really is about the need to sense that I have direction, am needed to help control the circumstances I have created for myself.

We all have control over some things: what we wear, what we watch, our politics. Other things we only control if other things fall into place: – who we love, what we eat, where we live.

But in the whole there is almost nothing controllable. No other being knows this. We more or less know we will end, but not really, unless you are in fugue state or an 19th century Parisian. We measure, postulate, conclude, “know” – but we really know nothing about so much that when we sense our remaining ignorance we have a drink, watch a show or look to mate.

We don’t control much because we do not know much. And we do not like that.

But there is work.

Work is not control. Work simulates the effects of control.

“Just DO IT.”

We feel better doing – sometimes doing is enough. But when you are done, its revealed only to be what it is – action to accomplish in the things you can control. It does not render control. Work lives in the controllable world, it only gives what its allowed to.

After a historically great high school football team was revealed to have zero control against a factually better adversary, their great football coach simply said:

“All that’s left, for us, is work.”

No championship, no winning season, no all-state honors, no achievement, no reward except getting better.

No reward except getting better. That may be the message of work. The failures of non-obtainment are all too clear. The potential for fulfilling fantasies of getting through an unknown, gaining control of something not, ultimately, controllable are hopes, not facts.

No matter what skills you have they are dust if you do not put them into play. Its usually not enough – But you can get better. You can control getting better.

Better is always possible. But better is seldom good enough.

The act of work can be a little bit of control. At least we have that. But “least” is part of it. It is the triumph of the best outcome from least expectation that makes the idea of control possible.

Until they played the game against a clearly superior opponent, those high school players had the expectation, or at least the hope, of control.

As rain comes and goes, as some friends have babies and some die, as Donald Trump may come to be our Classiest president yet, most of us are clueless about how those things came to be: let alone why.

We cannot even understand the force that makes everything – everything – gravity. Similarly the molecules that create everything – what IS the stuff that makes everything? Of course these universals of energy and matter are measured, their properties understood: but what, actually, Are they?

Despite naming them – God Particle, Dark Matter/Energy – the essential “How’s” of the most basic elements of existence remain unknown. Not known, so not controllable.

If we knew these things maybe we could know our fate, the “Why’s” of our lives and that might take the burden off our “What’s”. We are the only beings that can even ask “why”, but we have no hope of knowing the answers of what makes me understand that I need vacation, but can never have rest.

But I have work.



July 30, 2015


From billions of miles away we see a blurry image of Pluto: a dark, unknown thing. The flows of lighter material over dark seem, sort of, maybe like a heart. Pluto has a heart.

A latte has swirls of steamed milk that look like a butterfly, a dog, Madonna (either one).

Efflorescence, or dirt or erosion reveals the face of Jesus in a building face, or a carrot’s shape, or a bagel, or, or…

The see-er takes reality and gives it a meaning that has nothing to do with that reality, because we are hardwired to connect dots and make judgments: maybe to hunt or prevent being hunted, maybe to make sense of our ignorance.

A snake skeleton has tiny legs: its the missing link between – what? Tiny bone fragments make entire dinosaurs real for paleontologists.

Architects take bits of the designs they love, their own, others and confer legitimacy by fealty to visual clues that are applied -and illegitimacy to those who apply different clues.

Politicians and clerics repeat mantras of faith in sound bites like “justice”, “community”, “choice”, “life” as short hand verbal versions of the visual connections we all make: taking a tiny sample of reality: sound, visual or ideological and transfer that tiny truth into a much greater reality.

Last summer a wry, thoughtful man, about a decade my senior said plainly on our annual visit: “I have pancreatic cancer, I doubt I will be around more than 3 or 4 more months.” He looked unchanged (save down the 10 pounds he agonized over losing for the last decade).

He was undaunted: he was thinking that he had some time left to revel in a focus of his last years: bees. He was insistent that we had to see his hives. Of course we did. He then gave a 90 minute stream of observation that revealed the intricate evidence of extreme coordination that bees live.

The unfathomable level of communication, choreography and unified action lets thousands of bits of life act as a single entity.

It was not a coincidental swirl of latte, not a screen capture of material flow on the other side of the solar system: it was not interpretable: the hive has a hierarchy, order and set of amazingly effective protocols that make sense out of potential chaos.

In that way, the hive was the face of Jesus for my very secular friend: it showed, not in a snapshot, but in years and years of his observation, study and implementation how unnumbered organisms can connect.

Spiritual connection was not his agenda: but observable, factual connection without evident mechanisms was real, and he marveled in it. These mysteries in plain sight made a connection to realities beyond his time on earth, at least for me.

Humans need that sense there is more than us: and the good news is there is. Whether a thrill at a baby’s smile, the face of Mother Teresa in a piece of fruit, or in the unending repetitive patterns of extraordinary precision without discernible design, we see, and more importantly feel, that there are larger realities than our day-to-day.

My friend died, about when he said he thought he would. But his hives thrive. The plants they feed from grow. Most of those plants die in a few months, after the seeds the bees help create nestle in soil, waiting for spring. Life goes on, with or without seeing Jesus in a carrot.

Bee 2015 07 28


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