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Welcome to Saved by Design

September 15, 2021

New Stuff:

In A Year In Lent: Easter In August

In Random Stuff…something happened…

In Home Page: HOMES of Salvation

In Absence: Easters

In Left To Myself: Life After Death

In Emily’s Days: Coda

In Not (As) Fat: One Meal A Day

In Finding Home: Occupation Preoccupation

In The Rules: History: The Other Gravity

In Silence In SpringFlaw Flourishes

In Days ’till Spring: 40 Days

A Lack Of Earning Potential

September 22, 2021

Three months ago, friends, who moved to New England to be near us, joined us for perhaps our millionth dinner together.

“Your begonias are out of control!” My dear friend noted, herself a great killer of plants.

“It’s a strange year” I replied.

And it was. The tomatoes that delivered unending salads last year were oddly colored, shaped and infested with some ailment that split their skins before ripening. One new rhododendron was fully enraptured at its new setting, the other died a silent and sad death. The grass seed, planted 38 years ago, loves being mowed every 3 weeks, rather than two (I have been busy).

The full frontal assault of an insane acorn crop from our 260 year old white oak has bombarded our house, causing PTSD damage to my wife’s psyche as she works under a large skylight that magnifies the barrage into a drum solo.

Despite all efforts, life is not under our control. Even if it was, no amount of hope, promise or expertise earned the life that is, in fact, fully out of control all around us. Billions get vaccinated, huge human behaviors modified and the Covid Virus is having as good a year as my begonias.

But explosive growth is only one uncontrollable in the windows to our incapacity.

Our dear begonia loving friend, who settled here to join us for 30 years of dinners, went to play tennis. Her life of mental and physical fitness was a model for me – my own BMI and thought production fully wanting.

In the delight of a pickup tennis doubles match, our friend had a aortic dissection. Part of the pathways taking most of her blood simply broke. No one could have scanned it, no lifestyle change could have prevented it, no cure exists when it happens outside a hospital.

The lack of control was fully realized in minutes.

My car simply stopped going faster than 15 miles per hour last week. Humans made that car. I am one of them, and know others that can control the car. In a week, one of its central powering parts, one of four pistons was reconstituted. Humans had made the piston, humans could fix the piston.

We did not make us. We do not understand how or why why or even what we are, but we are as real as any car, or begonia, or aortic dissection.

I want to earn the fruits of my efforts. I want to get what I want, not as a gift, but as a transaction. My effort leverages my desires. But I cannot earn life.

Life is the last fully inscrutable gift that defies control. The least of us can last for a century, the boldest athlete can cease to live in a second. We are the same in our incapacity. We are here, like my car, and we want to do more than eat acorns and sleep. So we play tennis, ride our cars, plant our tomatoes.

But what we start, we do not finish.

Because we only start our actions, and finish those, because that is what we have been given the capacity to do. I wish that there was a human-based alternative to God. I wish Jesus was a great scientist who created life for his fellow humans, and we could codify and expand his human insights and production.

No, Jesus knew that we, He, created only his acts. The engine of His, and our, acts are not those found in cars, but they are engines. Of insane complexity, with zero rationale, just here, now. And then not here.

God is not a mechanic that fixes our engines. We, the engines He created, just need to know that we have been given this. We are not owed a thing, even the things that we lose. I cannot understand how my car was repaired but I could learn it, fix cars and control the things humans make. I cannot know how my friend slipped out of life, beyond the trenchant Dr. Internet distillations of the mechanics, but I can understand that I cannot understand.

Having faith in meanings we cannot define is simply not me. I want to know the whys and meanings of all these acorns and split tomatoes, I am confident that I could fully research and feel comfy that I know the ephemeral causalities of those things, and Covid19, but it is unknowable why all of life has been given.

And why it ends.

I am left, again, with the God that never leaves, like a bad house guest. I would like to have the pat comfort of earning my definition of the undefined, but no, I do not have that earning capacity.

Sent from my iPad

HOME for Everyone

September 20, 2021

THURSDAY: NOON: LIVE! WPKN 89.5fm Streaming

We all have to rest our heads somewhere. As universal as eating or sleeping, having a place is part of being human. But around New York City the cost of having a place to live is more than some can afford. A basic requirement to live, having a home, has to be met or people live in mortal danger. What is our common space – roads, parks, greens become places where people must live.

Some people work to create places to live, even in a housing boom that raises prices and costs. The number of people who need safety where they live is always there, even when these costs go up – and right now they are. There are many scenarios of how the homes that should provide safety actually endanger who must live there. Those who are living on the street or in dangerous decaying homes simply need safe harbor. Those whose income is too small even the most modest market rate rental need assistance. Those whose income is too small to save a deposit and pay for a traditional mortgage are desperate to have a place that they own.

On Home Page we present those who have “walked the talk” of making places for those who are not part of the crazy market rate housing booms and busts that flood places like Connecticut and New York. Bill Casey has been the Director of Habitat of Greater New Haven for almost 30 years, where that organization has created over 100 owned homes: mostly new, some rehabilitated, but all strategically located to build neighborhoods. Rose Noonan and others created the Housing Action Council in Westchester County, New York almost 40 years ago, and her intrepid group has helped create funding for hundreds of projects that house thousands of people – some formerly homeless, others with limited income, others in workforce housing that simply cannot afford to work near where they are needed to work. Steve Grathwohl has worked with a variety of organizations in Fairfield County, Connecticut as both a professional and a volunteer to re-envision blighted and deteriorating places that otherwise cannot justify private development and secure the vision and finding to make safe affordable homes.



September 15, 2021


In ArchDaily: Local Can Be Universal

In CT Insider: Column: Three ways to protect your home from climate change in CT

In Common Edge: An Ode to the Planet’s Most Glorious Building Material: Wood

In Mockingbird: Thank You Is Harder

In ArchDaily: Before “Colonial” There Was Immigrant Architecture in North America

In Common Edge: Postmodernism and Disco: Together, Forever

In CT Insider: Are black windows out? How architecture design fads impact resale value

In CT Insider: When it comes to real estate are we in a bubble or a new market?

In Mockingbird: The Puritans Are On The Run

In ArchDaily: Is Apprenticeship the Way That Architectural Education Stays Relevant?

In Mockingbird: Wearing Faith

In Common Edge: Is Apprenticeship the Way That Architectural Education Stays Relevant?

In Mockingbird: Biking Just As Fast As I Can

In CT Insider: What if CT realtors focused on sunlight and orientation rather than features and style?

In Mockingbird: The NFL Draft and Grace

In Common Edge: How the Practice of Architecture Survives Artificial Intelligence

In Mockingbird: Time Traveling With God

In Mockingbird: Known Unknowns

In Common Edge: Architecture and the Age of Creative Disruption


Recent Images


 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.



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


…something happened…

September 15, 2021

100,000,000 Americans may have gotten the plague.

Vaccinations are available everywhere, all the time, and some do not want that protection. Even 20% of nurses in a New York Hospital are quitting. rather than get inoculated after 19 months of personally, daily, dealing with the plague.

Humans do not follow the realities of others. I think it is called Free Will. No law, even truth, corrals all humans into “one way or the highway”

We opt to purchase, at great cost, cigarettes that kill several hundred thousand of us a year.

Our cars could have a mandatory top out speed imposed on our throttles that follows the state’s highest speed limit (in Ct 65mph) but even small cars can go to 100mph, and most accidents happen, and people die, when cars go fast.

I, and about half of us, are fat, and that shortens our lives, without being force fed.

Somewhere in these last few months, now that everyone who wanted an inoculation got one, and those who have it are not threatened with severe consequences, somewhere, things changed. Not the screaming anti-mask rejection, or the full-on control of a government that defines every danger, no, no matter who is screaming at us, this last month, most have seen the crisis as not defining their lives.

Safety yes, terror no.

Millions in stadiums fully unmasked and screaming, everywhere, even in New York and LA, people packing interiors of restaurants. People still smoking and being fat when the plague makes those things more debilitating.

No one thinks that they cannot get vaccinated, just about a third of us do not want to be. As they get infected, and they will, protection follows the survivors, and whether dead or surviving those bodies are not hosts for the plague…

That disease will ebb, like the Spanish Flu 100 years ago.

I wish people wore helmets when they road bicycles, let alone motorcycles, but most do not. I wish no one wanted to smoke grass and over time dull their abilities, but they do to the point of having our elected governments legalize it, for no other reason than its pleasurable experience for some.

I wish I was not fat.

Transactional Immunity

September 12, 2021

Encouraging bad behavior is at the root of the human condition.

Teaching design three half days a week, (and prepping for almost as much time) I must work 7 days a week, or everything suffers. Fortunately, my children are grown and away at great distance from us, and my wife has a full time career and has a social life independent of our relationship. So I can abuse both.

Today, Sunday, I also abused my relationship with My Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ as well. I had to skip church as a miraculous ensemble of flights to and from Virginia in 18 hours, with about 6 hours on the ground to look at one, and perhaps two, building sites for wonderful clients. So what if I had to wake up at 4AM after a jovial dinner with friends, this was a miraculous slip into a jammed schedule.

A full waiting area in the 6:15 AM airport saw 2 pilots saunter in, then 3 flight attendants, and…we were told we needed 4 attendants to fly. No fear, the attendant had left his hotel room, “and would be here”.

An hour later, I began calculating the time I had in the window to get to my connecting flight. I could get to my connection even if the attendant was two hours late. Another hour, and the announcement “If you are connecting, we are all good, no worries.”

Then another hour went by, and we were an hour and half late in taking off, but I had an hour window to burn.

“Good news, we have a replacement attendant flying in from Chicago.” Why?

“We have no idea where our original attendant is.”

When does the replacement arrive?

In time for a 3.5 hour take-off delay. I could handle 3.

So…upon leaving the head attendant simply said, “They went to his room, and it was empty. We have no idea what is going on.”

So I go home, expending 7 hours in futile worship of my control.

Well, I did not go home, I went to the office. Finished my slide show for the University of Hartford’s Second Year Architectural Design Class. Then I dove into a tiny job for a delightful couple in Maine (creating a Mud Room) my services purchased in a fund-raising auction. Then I hit the essay I started in June that had July comments that is due in 2 weeks for a terrific California venue.

So I had to dump one bucket, but I filled others. Including now, working out to make the 45th consecutive day of death avoidant exercise. Instead of learning from my insane overkill, I overcame my failure by overkilling more.

If you work them off transgressions (like a great desert) can be functionally mitigated. But when you validate your worth by execution of the tasks you yourself create for you, you simply justify your hubris. Not good.

In the dance between motivations and outcomes, outcomes have all the airtime. I can report that boxes have been checked off, I did what needs doing. But why? Why do I need to be on the exercise bike for the next 52 minutes?

Because I am a human.

The inadequacy of my motivations is simply true. I can pound a virtue signally chest and scream “THIS!” Like so many I see on social media, but is harder to find solace in the devotions that are my motivation to be of use to those who trust me, share the gifts God has given me, and simply eat less tonight than I now can, killing 500 calories.


66 years of getting grades, making tackles, fitting the tight pants, going to the children’s games and practices, building 1,000 things, are simply my functional foundation. For now. I know, that just like the missing Flight Attendant, my ensemble of physical and intellectual viabilities will be missing some day. I will be unable to do 18 hour days, or work out 45 days in a row avoiding death on my exercise bike.

I know that God is shaking his head, perhaps smiling at my asininity, just like my father would have shaken his head and frowned had I gotten a “C” on just about anything. Disappointment is part of every day, despite the outcomes, maybe because of them.

Reconciling the sacred and profane is as hard as rationalizing the relationship between motivations and outcomes. You know what is right, it’s just that there are at least a couple of rights to devote to. After 60 years beyond infancy, the choices are harder.

Relentless schooling demanded time. A not yet career demanded time. A young marriage of discovery demanded time. Children demanded time. This article demands Time.

But time is, in the end, shown in outcomes to everyone but ourselves. It is we who finally know our motivations, about the reality that is not justifiable without Acts.

I wish I knew another way.

Life After Death

September 6, 2021

Things live because we are alive to see them.

If we cease to be they are gone, but while we are still here, the death around us can have a reanimation. Of sorts. For, of, and by us. If not physically, then perceptually.

Liz and I created our home 38 years ago. The site was a part of the back yard of “Oak Hill” – a 13.8 acre swath of swamp, upland of Rt.1, therefore framed mostly by the dreaded fragmites grasses surround the swamp, then bull briers, Jewell weed and the evil poison ivy. These all came after about a century or two the Chittendens using this glacial moraine rock dump as a sheep pasture. They built an ungainly box there around 1910 as a vacation home for the lesser side of the family. In the Reagan Boom, 5 lots we carved out of the swamp edge and became homes. When finances were tricky, we bought the last bit of land, the backyard of the manse, which was the garbage dump of the Chittendens for about 80 years.

The sheep managed to eat all the ground cover on what was a terrible piece of land before World War 2, fully denuding the property of everything except the fully mature trees that had popped up a century or two ago – before the sheep showed up, mostly white oaks, mostly beautiful. We also have birch, swamp maple, black cherry, even an American elm. And a perfect Sugar Maple, sitting before our home in all its glory to the point where we could only fringe plant hostas about it and the native Lillie’s would seldom bloom in its ever darkening shade.

I walk 60 feet to work out every day, like I am now. Right past the maple. Returning home, 4 years ago, I see the terrifying sight most associate with a parent who does not recognize you: outward beauty, but up top, just there, the yarmulke of bright orange. The Maple Plague. Sure Death. It was only time. Next year more bare branches, more orange leaves, then, 3 years ago, the leafing out of much of the tree was followed by instant, tragic falling of zillions of fallen leaves in August. Then a quick visit by my Tree God, and yes, removal.

But, wait.

When we built our barn, about 16 years earlier, I had to remove a fairly sad Red Oak. But we saved its central shaft trunk, had a movable sawmill come and cut it up, and I stickered it and set up under our house and air dried it for 3 years then had it dressed and then installed in that barn. A great, lively legacy. It’s stump is slowly disappearing after 20 years, but the floor shines.

The maple came down, but we were too cheap to have the Tree God remove the fallen limbs and trunk. So, I had a large son help remove all the smaller branches, left the middling ones and were left with three stout 10 foot trunk logs, over 3ft-6in wide to under 3ft. I had another sawyer take a look, “Can’t do it here, trunk is too big, driveway too steep.” So the first $1,000 moved the three huge trunks to a field where only one of the three passed the inspection of the sawyer. And we dove into creating quarter sawn pieces at the maximum width of his mill blade, 20in.

With some muscle and time we ended up with over 20 pieces.

The pieces had a coloration in them that was wild. Yes, some spaulting, even some nail holes from about 100 years worth of tacking sheep herding barbed wire to the trunk, but that film of coloration was something that neither the sawyer, nor I, nor my Wood God,  had ever seen before.

That coloration made me feel better about the next $1K that I paid to the sawyer. We loaded the pieces, heavy and wet into our Volvo station wagon. And slowly, slowly went aaaaall the way down Rt. 1 except the I-95 bridge, and made it home.

We then stacked them using plastic stickers and covered them with a plastic tarp for the next 2.5 years.

I took a sample 5 months ago to my Wood God who measured the moisture. “Well, 10.5% or 9.75% – not good.” The large son was now in Okinawa (I just spelled that Oakinawa). I had an intern who was an inside linebacker for Yale with me until the end of July.

I bought a dehumidifier, connecting a hose, and propped it under the tarp, with a hole to drag in a little make air. It worked, but first I had to figure out how to best use the next wad of cash to plane to thickness and cut to edge and cross cut to length.

All three applications had different thicknesses and edge profiles for three separate uses. If I had enough wood. I measured.

I had just enough, and labeled three thickness, three edge conditions, all maximum width and then some careful harvesting cross cuts.

Three sticks were left to make two glued up countertops for WPKN,

The rest went home.

Then another, easy, trip at about 2/3s the weight of the first almost 3 years ago. Then using an esoteric 2 part water urethane that was deemed the best way to penetrate the maple by a Finish God (as maple is ever weird with finish). I did 2 full coats on both sides, mixing the two parts with each bit’s usage. That was another $150.

Then the layout…

Then getting the Finish God’s super esoteric glue as one floor was over not much and thin, and the other was Wide. That, and the Wood God’s millworking killed the next $1K.

But the glued up and resawn, sanded, counter tops were retrieved, and needed finishing, this time with Tung Oil. 7 coats with sanding then rubbing in between over two weeks.

Then they were installed.

And at long last after weeks of acclimation, the floors went in, then 5 more coats for one floor, 4 more for the other. By professionals. The last $1,800.

Why do I do this? The cost ended up being $20 a square foot, finished and installed. About what I could have purchased in the retail market. But there was no skill, effort or history put into buying a thing. Saving history makes history.

Beauty. History. Need. Using my mind and body in ways no IPad or Sharpie can. And this:

And I have cutting boards to make…

HOMES of Salvation

August 24, 2021


For most homes are the place of familiar settings, of comfort, of safety. Homes should not threaten, they should welcome us into our Safe Place of protection, of pleasant harbor. But for some, homes extend their humanity into the future. Homes provide a place of expression, hope, even risk in their innovation and vision.

Throughout the last 150 years homes went beyond the extension of their occupants’ values and aesthetics into the world of architectural, social and technological aspiration. For some, homes became laboratories of experimentation in “New” hope and possibility. Homes offered salvation to their owners, the civilization and architectural vision that could transform the way humanity makes buildings.

Homes have always been the lab rats of architecture. Their size, the control their builders had upon their outcome meant homes could project all the possibilities we invested in them. But like most experiments, these transformative attempts fail. We are seeing new trial balloons, right now, based on the same human desperation to make the “New” – even if in this effort happens in the oldest structure that humans built, our homes.

Home Page welcomes Taunton Press’s Peter Chapman and the New Haven Museum’s Jason Bischoff-Wurstle and others to steak about these and of Salvational Homes:

Container Homes,

Reproduction Homes

Living Roof/Buried Homes

Tiny Homes,

3D Printed Homes

Rammed Earth Homes

Net Zero Homes

Pressure Treated Wood Homes

Urethane Foam Homes

Dymaxion Homes

Usonian Homes

The Nourishment of Bad Fortune

August 22, 2021


We are not you. You are sadly in a bad place. So sad. For you. I am not sad because I am not you.

As weather, uncontrolled, vaguely predicted, is anticipated, the perfectly haired, well dressed Talking Heads Of Weather Reporting are amped up in fully glory. They are now important because, in theory, they know what you do not.

But they know nothing more than the internet updates scientists give them. They extend possibility into disaster. As long as things are bleak, they are important. You are powerless, they have power.

But they are nothing more than you or I. They only offer tiny facts fully sauced with dire terror and deadly threat, dished out with the authority of the tiny screens we watch.

They are Ghouls.

Living, thriving on others’ fears. Drinking the blood of ignorance. Feasting on terror. Reveling in the fear they have no answer for. Using the misfortune of others to lord their “I told you so.” gravitas over lives that are simply without authority or control.

But that have no power, authority, control or any importance that we do not give them.

Channel turned. It’s always summer sweet in Mayberry.

August 21, 1955

August 21, 2021

It was hot. It was middle Suburbia, in Middle 20th Century. Floods were ranging through Pennsylvania. It was the 8th month of 1955, every one of which had been in pregnancy, now soon over.

The drugs were administered, but less this fourth time in the 11 years and three previous pregnancies. Yet there would be little awareness of birth, save awakening to a visiting baby, soon rushed out of sight, for feeding. Being a boy, immediate circumcision.

The third child to live, after a loss, full term, of the firstborn (perhaps due to a doctor delayed by a golf game), brought to air breathing by uncontrollable contractions of physical ejection, out into a white linen antiseptic place of bright light and safety from the murky world of human pain and mess.

Mother’s milk was inferior to manmade nutrition. The father was absent, as he was for much of the rest of the post birth world. Great celebration, soon home to a place of a five and ten year old. long out of diapers fully enmeshed in schooling. This careful composition was betrayed by the delay in its effectuation, after a brutal war wrecked every norm – for these parents the pre-war decade of childfree by choice bliss in the party, jazz of booze and cigarettes of Manhattan was forever ago.

The parties were over. the jazz was on the HiFi, and Manhattan was a nice place to visit. Meals were now nutritious from fresh frozen, work was from a railroad, days started and ended by the train schedule. But this last, this third child was born the last brick in the wall building a Family after the chaos of war, capping the Family Home, fully remade in the hopes of the parents, now filled by three new humans not even considered a dozen years before.

Children were now part of our culture’s life. Their creation and their creation beyond birth had become the Prime Directive it always was, but now with the desperation of survivors. It was a time of trying to control what had been completely threatened, ended for many, dubious in its outcome, but, now, in a world my parents were creating.

But they, then, like we, now, forget that the world makes us, too. What we are is not made by us, but we are made by all the realities we cannot control. So the gap between what was given and what was wanted was filled with the ways that could be controlled. Birthing in white linen, with all the safety of the unconscious. Living in the creations that could be made, versus accepting what was unavoidable.

66 years ago today, the last piece of construction was put into place, and the next 20 years saw that place be what it always was, uncontrollable. A family that started together pulled away for survival, shaping the new lives, defining those who created them.

There are seldom heroes and villains outside of the comic book, there are only us, the humans. We are not what we create, we are created by what we never were, but in the reality of what we come to want.

Birth is a gift. It was undesired by the born, but completely necessary for their existence, but at the moment the cord is cut, the birth simply continues, until the human that is made can know who they are, and who made them.

Birthdays, then, for me, are a marker, not a celebration. The change from the murky mess of making into the white linen hopes did not stop when I breathed air for the first time. But being born happened. Today. 66 years ago.