Skip to content

Welcome to Saved by Design

July 23, 2021

New Stuff:

In A Year In Lent: Easter In August

In Random Stuff: I Could Not Do Anything Else

In Home Page: HOME talking

In Absence: Easters

In Left To Myself: Some Are Men (and Fathers)

In Emily’s Days: Coda

In Not (As) Fat: One Meal A Day

In Finding Home: Occupation Preoccupation

In The Rules: Black Windows, Corian Countertops, Avocado Appliances

In Silence In SpringFlaw Flourishes

In Days ’till Spring: 40 Days

Impossibly True

July 26, 2021

Almost 35 years ago, a woman called me and blurted that her dad, 67, had died as he walked off the jetway coming to London. He was a world class athlete as a student, went on to be an Athletic Director at private schools, being fully in shape and aware of his body. His death, announced in the New York Times, was said to be a heart attack then. It was shocking, and the woman was but 32.


The woman lived the next 35 year in full health. Her husband and my wife became dear frends all Godparents of each others’ children. When retirement came for them, our friends moved north to be with us again, after being apart for about 30 years. They moved to a fun house, where my friend had her own indoor pool, used in almost daily, with a trim and well-worked body. In light of her father’s instant passing, she checked into the Mayo clinic a few years ago, before the move, to establish a baseline – and was pronounced fully fit after 3 days of tests.

We had a classic fun dinner 5 days ago, familiarity and love making great conversation, ending in a hard hug, in the light of our mutual safety after over a year of extreme caution.

36 hours later my friend died.

In the same fully inscrutably quick and unpredicted patter, she fell during a tennis match. This time the doctors say probably there was an aneurysm. So, after a year of extreme adherence to protocols, death from something she probably was born with….

Her daughter, our Goddaughter is the same age as her mother was when she called me. There are no reasons, there are coincidences. There is no justice, no fairness, no way to judge or learn or transact anything that mains gain of this and all the other losses we experience, every day.

JImmy Carter said “Life is not fair.” St. Paul said “love never fails.” Both are right.

News

July 23, 2021

READ:

In Mockingbird: The God of Our Creation

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

In CT Insider: Lost in translation: Deciphering the design jargon with an architect

In Mockingbird: Her Grace Is All She Has

In ArchDaily: The Religion of the City: Cars, Mass Transit and Coronavirus

In Mockingbird: Wind (and God)

                                                                                                             

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.

                                                                                                             

WATCH:

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

                                                                                                             

HOME – community

July 21, 2021

Thursday, July 22 – NOON -89.5FM Streaming WPKN.org

We have all been in our homes and our neighborhoods more in the last year and a half than we have since World War 2. Now flights are back to 2019 levels, the highways are choked, but what about those places where we live? Not our homes, but our neighborhoods.

What was this part of the world like before cars? Planes? Internet? Were neighborhoods families? Were communities just us, not a governmental institution?

Was our separation from the world a return to life before these transporters? If so, what does that mean for us, now? Do you think we have changed to understand our localvore reality, or we slide back to simply bypassing our home town in favor of distant appeal, or has our neighborhood become more that what surrounds our home, but a place that we live?

This month HOMEPAGE extends the idea of “home” beyond the four walls of our dwellings. fter these eighteen months of both isolation and local connection going to change the definition of home to include those around us? Or has sequestration terrorized us to with hold faith beyond self-protection?

HOME brings in four perspectives on what a home is beyond where we live:

Steve Grathwohl is the principal of westport property management and is currently on the Board of Directors of the Bridgeport Neighborhood Trust, a nonprofit developer of affordable housing, and is a member of the Affordable Housing Committee in Fairfield.

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 was a Board Member of the Board of The New Haven Preservation Trust NHPT. Jason’s exhibit “Daymarks 1872” highlights New Haven’s social history. Jason is also a WPKN fixture.

Steve Mouzon is an architect, urbanist, author, blogger, and photographer from Miami. He founded the New Urban Guild, which helped foster the Katrina Cottages movement. Steve Mouzon opened his own architecture firm in 1991 and produces a number of town-building tools and services. He has derived A Living Tradition is a framework for a new type of pattern book that is principle-based instead of taste-based and therefore contributes to the creation of new living traditions. Steve is also a principal of the New Urban Guild in Miami.

It Is Not About Winning

July 11, 2021

It is 5-something in the morning. Sweat and the TV are my companions. Forestalling death by old-man workouts retreat a day of thought into mornings of effort. I get nowhere but I am here.

Watching a 2020 game, repeated because everything else costs too much to produce, I watch two grown men in full contact, using everything they have to do what they try to do. They mostly fail, if perfection is the grade.

Here, one fails, and does everything right. His body is large, in the right place, angle, his feet never stop moving, but the other simply can do more.

Extreme effort and thought, reaction, lead one to fight through the extreme effort and thought of the other, and end the play of 22 men, all in extreme effort.

Yay! Triumph! Yes, but unseen is the years. Years of extreme effort, not seconds. Endless, isolated devotion. No reward except improvement. This, to me, is the gift of what we do not earn, but accept, and use. This is thousands of hours of a dozen years, simply showing in 6 seconds. No reward, maybe no consequence.

This is why we are alive.

I Could Not Do Anything Else

June 26, 2021

“You must love being an architect!”

This is said to me often. Somehow the “branding” of architects is resilient to all the pretense and irrelevance my profession exudes. But the creation of a tangible thing, a piece of technology, Craft, environmental consequence, and, yes, beauty, has an allure that is real and abiding.

Ideas are great things. Writers capture them like butterflies in a bottle. So do artists and poets. The joy of performing and sharing is with every musician, dancer and actor. Every builder, chef and craftsman makes objects that delight themselves and those who consume their wares.

But architects, when they build, can combine all these arts into what they do.

Goethe called architecture “The mother of the arts”.I think it is more of a crucible. What we believe, who we are, what we value is inevitably present in what humanity builds. Architects apprehend social, economic, technological aesthetic, even historic and emotional realities and create built things that embody moments in our culture and our person.

But that is not why I am an architect.

Unlike every assumption of love and fulfillment that is gifted to me by so many, my 48 years immersed in making is not an option, not a choice, not earned, not even a point of pride. It is first and always the center of gratitude from me to those who trust me to channel their hope and cash and fear into making something, anything.

If I calculated the value of any one thing I do, I would grade the fruits of my devotion. We have exquisitely different children. How can I grade them? I love them both fully, that is their only evaluation.

So, no, I am not proud to be an architect, I am grateful for the faith others have in what I do. I am not proud because whatever I do has been given to me. Of course I am devoted, so I work with complete investment – but where did that devotion come from? I can turn a piece of something into joy, even define a place into a gift, but I did not do that. I am but a cypher for the inscrutable mystery of what God gives each of us.

So no, I do not love “architecture”. “Architecture” is not what I chose to do, it chose me. Because I did not make myself, you did not either. Every one of us was given the unjustifiable, unearned, realities of who we are.

What we do with all we have been given is what we live with. If you woke me up from a dead sleep, and you asked me “Who are you?!” I would utter “football”. But I could be nothing but “architecture” because I am too weak and too slow to do what gives me great joy beyond the young efforts of others who cannot go farther than their teenage years.. But the gift of understanding allowed me to know that. And I played before steroids were available – if they were I would probably be dead now.

We are not what we do. I am an architect because I can do nothing else.

We have been given what we are capable of doing and the will to do it. This is not an excuse, it is a charge of ultimate responsibility. If I created my life, I would define happiness. But no, happiness is finally not found in the outcomes of what you do. Happiness, for me, is doing all I can with the gifts God gave you.

And every other human you see and meet.

Children Are Not Resilient.

June 22, 2021

“D’Aundre Holmes-Wilfork, the son of former NFL star Vince Wilfork, was arrested last month and charged with stealing more than $300,000 in jewelry, including a pair of Super Bowl rings, according to a police complaint released by the Galveston County District Attorney’s Office in Texas.”

Until a couple of hundred years ago, more children died in childhood than lived through it. Parents had no choice than give birth and see what happened. If they loved their young there was a better than even chance that they would be crushed by their death.

So many children died then because children are fragile.

Medicine advanced and more children lived. Medicine advanced so that humans could try to control whether they became pregnant or not. More children survived, but fewer children were born.

We came to love our children more because we could risk loving them, without the probability of their tragic death before we could ever know them. Children became central to our lives in these last generations.

But the survivors never changed. We are human. Mostly we muddle through life, making money, creating things, binge watching. We also do great and awful things. As ever, we do our lives in the reality of having children around us, some as parents.

Children have no choice but to fully focus on their parents. They can do nothing but use the food and shelter given to them, unearned and essential.

Part of that food is love.

Starvation wrecks a body. Organs fail, disease can infect. And you become fully psychotic in the quest for food, until catatonic in its absence. Some die. Those who do not die recover to be visually indistinguishable from those who were fell fed. But they are changed.

Children are easy victims of abuse. They think abuse is what every human has, because they know no others but the abusers and their fellow abused. They feel they earn the cruelty of their lives because the abusers are those who give them life.

But abuse, like a form that casts a statue, may be removed, but the sculpture is cast.

You can never know the food you never ate, so children come to know that while they are like everyone else around them, they have been shaped. Like everyone around them.

Vince Wilfork was a full success at the thing he loved, football. He also had loving parents. He also fell in love in college and married his love, who had a son, whose father had simply left their life.

Naturally as a great good man, Wilfork adopted the child of his love. Twenty years of success followed. But the first years of this son’s life shaped his son. Money, food, family is not enough to undo some childhoods.

His 23 year old son, loved these last 20 or more years, stole things from those who loved him. We act for ourselves when we feel that is all we have. D’Aundre Holmes-Wilfork tried to fill a starved childhood, and could not.

Adults try to reconcile everything. Injustice means you are a victim or a failure. Love is unearned or deserved. We are entitled to what we want.

But we do not earn or deserve love, love is the air we breath, it is life. When we cannot breath beyond survival it is starvation. We do not learn hunger. Love is essential. When a child, love is all we know, or its absence. Even for a brief time when we are being formed.

I wish I knew anyone who was not shaped by their childhood. A “bad seed” could be dismissed, eliminated. A born perfect human could rule the earth. But no, we are who we are, because we did not make ourselves.

Children are not resilient.

Children are fully fragile.

We have all been them, we still are.

HOME:Outside

June 20, 2021

A Great Podcast! https://soundcloud.com/wpkn895/home-page-radio-home-outside-1

In this early summer the weather has been bizarrely fair, and all our thoughts turn to the outdoors. We have probably raked out, mowed, planted, perhaps fertilized, maybe even weeded: but beyond the Gardening Regime we developed in the PLAGUE Sequester, we may be thinking about a relationship we almost never even think about: How Where We Live Has A Conversation With Our Yard.

Rather than PLANT PLANT PLANT what do we THINK THINK THINK to create a long term relationship with a place we often leave out in the cold? We often only notice our yard when something is desperately wrong. A tree falls. A septic system fails. A fence simply collapses. What do we look for, now, that we often ignore until it is too late? How do we actually make our yard a joy rather than a guilt trip?

Do we think about the compass points? What can we do to catch or avoid sun? Are the deer feasting? What are the consequences of creating a trellis, a deck, a fire pit? Is the lawn sucking all our gas, carbon, energy? Are there alternatives? If there are places of unending mud, no growth, scorched earth – what can we do? What do we do, before we bake in a few weeks, to make our patch of dirt become parts of our home?

We have extraordinary landscape experts visiting HOME PAGE this week:

Shavaun Towers of The Project Studio is a landscape architect who creates elegant places that resonate with personal, cultural, and ecological meaning. Her approach is collaborative, respectful of clients’ aspirations, and dedicated to revealing the intrinsic character of each site,  promoting human connections to the beauty and restorative qualities of nature, and lectures on the components of distinctive landscapes. 
 
Phil Barlow is the founder of To Design, and is the firm’s a Principal-in-Charge of projects. With a keen insight into the design and use of public spaces, Phil leads the schematic design effort and is responsible for quality control.  He serves on CT’s Board of Landscape Architects and the Connecticut State Historic Preservation Review Commission.
 
Nancy DuBrule Clemente is a passionate garden creator and advocate who created Natureworks since 1983 – an incredible garden and organic gardening education center. Natureworks also does landscape design, installation, and maintenance. Her shop is in a 130-year-old house filled with organic supplies, books, seeds and gardening products.  
 

There is a place between planting and building a three season room, and those who know both the landscape and the buildings upon them have a perspective different than the gardener or the builder. This Week on HOME PAGE HOME:Outside.

Some Are Men (and Fathers)

June 19, 2021

In 1908 Harry Dickinson met Lucy Hill. He was a bricklayer who blew out his knee playing soccer for the Brooklyn Immigrant Leagues a few years before. Lucy was a worker in a cloth making factory, newly arrived in America. Both were from England. Both were “older” for marriage in their time.

I have zero knowledge of their lives or circumstances beyond these simple facts. But they married, and in a year Lucy gave birth to George Arthur, named after Harry’s uncle who had died in a shipwreck.

By the accounts I have, it was not a happy marriage. So much so, that when Lucy found out that she was pregnant just a year after George was born, when she was 27, she found the only method of birth control she had. She went for an abortion. And she, and her baby, died, during it.

It was 1910. Harry was a brick layer. In Brooklyn. Lucy had family in Canada. George was shipped there to be with Lucy’s sisters. For five years. He would wander away. His aunts feverishly looked for the 4 year old. When they found him, they would ask him “Why did you leave?” He would answer “I was looking for my Mum.”

His return to Harry was because he had a new wife. George thought that she was his mother. For about 10 years. But the convenience ended, the truth was revealed, and the legacy of break continued.

A life of achievement followed. George was the first to graduate from high school, number two at Boys High – a great school, Then college, law school, then his own marriage. A decade of partying followed, through the Great Depression. A joy ride, at least in the retrospect I was given.

Then World War 2.

The party was over, Years of being in the military. In their 30’s George and his wife knew that all the death of the war needed to be answered with children. They had one, stillborn, then a girl, a boy, then me in the next decade.

The break of 1909 lived fully in George’s life, so in the lives of his children. His wife decided that the broken nights of drink and anger over his lost lives of academia, partying and being in New York City were not enough to end their marriage so a life of being a lawyer by day, and drinking for an hour till drunk at night became the next 20 years.

The following 20 years, through the 70’s and 80’s, were a place where the emotional breaks of the previous 50 years became physical. The daughter broke away at 18 to be in California. His sons went to second home in Buffalo, with their mother visiting and returning to their father. George visited his sons a week or two a year.

The connections between the humans in our family were never there, because the break never left. Before I was shuttled to Buffalo to high school, I would be alone, brother in college, sitting 12 feet from him during nights of drunken stamp sorting and my doing homework, and there was no connection. So leaving for Buffalo simply changed venue.

So I, and my siblings, were broken, too.

In his last months, my father stopped drinking for the first time in 60 years. I never found out what that meant to him, because he never said a word about the central compensation of a broken childhood, except that he “had to.” Along with ending his continual smoking, which he then declared “a filthy habit”.

His first two children never had children. One has never touched a drop of any alcohol. The other married twice amid booze and cigarettes and other intoxicants, found religion, changed sex, and ended her life.

I work. At many different things. Just about every day. My, our, 40 year marriage has bound the broken. We worked at being the parents neither of us had. We never knew if it was OK. But after 30 years our sons are in good places.

It is Father’s Day tomorrow. A simulation of a role model that is virtually impossible, because everyone is broken. Some more, some less.

I wish I knew more about my parents’ first 40 years, but they simply detached from their children, beyond remote (and full) support in school, food, shelter, clothing – all needs were met except our need to understand, to love, to be part of anything beyond fulfilling the requirements they knew their children needed.

It is now fully 20 years since my mother died. Parenthood was as central to my life as it was peripheral to hers. I wish I understood what her children meant to her.

Father’s Day is a broad brush that tries to paint over innumerable complexities. It creates a sentimental prefabrication that tries to end the absence of understanding that life imposes on all of us to some degree.

But the absences of our childhood remains, under the paint. Not tragic, not even sad, but there.

Black Windows, Corian Countertops, Avocado Appliances

June 9, 2021

Black windows are crisp, even edgy. Corian countertops with integral sinks are nearly miraculous in their seamlessness. I even remember the pop of seeing “Avocado” colored appliances destroy the Arctic White of the kitchen appliance world, along with “Goldenrod” and “Coppertone”.

But those gimmicks (along several dozen million Palladian windows) are now visually soundbites of their eras. Media in the House-selling Hype Machine creates herding trends that relentlessly push the hip cool of being on the edge of what captures the power and giddy empowerment of home ownership. The cliches of the last decades have all jumped the shark and revealed the cynical trend porn used to market product. I think those fads will soon to be followed by today’s obsession with black windows.

Why do we need fads to validate one of our most fundamental interests, creating our homes? The terrorizing risk of the largest investment and debt we all face is overwhelming. Dependability in that investment is often necessary, or the liability overwhelms the joy of home ownership.

We look at buying a car in a similar way. If we thought about the full (huge) cost we would never be able to save all that cash and put it into a machine that degrades from the moment you own it. Instead, we think about the monthly payment of a lease or a car loan and judge how that small piece of the automobile’s outsized price tag fits in our budget – even though the total cost of the paying off the loan is far greater than the insanely high cost of a new car.

Black Windows distract us from the huge risk of owning a home. We can float down the river of trend, fad and hype and be washed into acceptance of our extreme risk, distracted by the eye candy of the moment. As an architect I am happy to fulfill my clients’ desires, and integrate the popular soundbites of the home hype machine into what we help them create.

But I also show the alternatives, because despite the Group Think of Bubbles, Houzz and Real Estate Brokers, what is snappy today is funky tomorrow. An anonymous broker pulled me aside at a showing last month and confided “I have already had buyers reject the Black Window Thing – it’s already dated.”

What never goes out of fashion is our fondest hopes and the reality of whatever land and community that our homes live in. The gist of making your place can be found in trends. I have an exquisite 32 year old Corian sink/countertop vanity in my home, and I love it. But the “look” of images that are now offered on millions of screens is just a shorthand for the hopes of our essential human desire to have our own place.

The basic need to be sheltered is only matched by the giddy empowerment of having a “cool” place. A good designer can see both realities and provide perspective and options. No one wants a home that becomes a landfill of avocado, black and Palladian junk.

Our homes are too important.