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Welcome to Saved by Design

November 24, 2020

New Stuff:

In Random StuffShould


In Absence: Easters

In Left To Myself: United

In Emily’s Days: Coda

In Not (As) Fat: One Meal A Day

In Finding Home: Built Beautiful

In The Rules: Architecture and The Failed Model of Genius

In Silence In SpringFlaw Flourishes

In Days ’till Spring: 40 Days

Work Is All We Have

November 30, 2020

Yesterday I felt justified.

I did things for my career, I raked and mowed out both home and office for the winter, made 3 leftover dinners from Thanksgiving, figured out our Christmas Tree, salvaged a piece of cedar, sorted out coffee cups, and had our 40th Wedding Anniversary Dinner (comped by the restaurant!) oh, and like now, I started the day with 90 minutes, at highest setting, on my bike: 600 calories.

But I could not go to church.

And I could not work myself any closer to justifying the gifts that all these things represent.

We are stewards of our life, not its maker.

So no matter how much we do to preserve, enhance and effect the possibilities from the essential beauty that has been laid before us, we earn nothing, we are owed nothing, we just try not to throw away the Grace that has been our silent Gift.

A son told me of a great day this week, the first, maybe in months, if not years of effort. He worked hard and helped many – deeply. I was happy for him, as he created it over years of effort and dedication, But I had to say that when you live for performance, despite all qualifications, you mostly fail. And if performance keys happiness, you will not be right with your life.

But good is Good. Using what you have to make things better, to fulfill your hopes, to make beauty, to show love to the loved (and the not loved) is the best we can do.

Work is not the reason we are here, but it is the one thing we can control, mostly.

What made us is not our work. Nor a moment of biology from our parents. Not even what has been done to, or for, us.

What is hardest to accept is that our capacities, our outcomes, even those we created with extreme devotion and effort, like our son, fall short of living the basic truth that we did not, and cannot, make life. We live it, and thank God we are here, however briefly.

I had very broken parents who were enormously successful. They, in turn, raised three broken children, who had every advantage. In the world they did all the right things of their time. In our world with them they could not know that God loves them. When the world does not love you the way you think it should, you work to make the love you wish was there. And you fail.

But who needs love if you are performing?

We need love because we never perform the way we wish we could.

The Love that is hardest to accept is not earned, it just is. We see it in our babies’ eyes, in the silent rush of connection with music or words of what we see. We call it beauty, but it is Love. Given to us. Not earned.

Work may be all we have, but it is not enough.


November 24, 2020


In CT Insider: Aesthetic concepts and their impact on charity homes in New Orleans and New Haven

In Common Edge: Architecture Misses Charles Moore

In Mockingbird: Can Zoom Be Sacred? The Architecture of God

In CT Insider: The blight fight in Connecticut’s neighborhoods

In ArchDaily: “Make It Right” Goes Wrong in New Orleans

In Mockingbird: On the Cusp of Humility

In CT Insider: Living in history and the old house appeal

In CT Insider: ‘Antique’ and ‘Modernist’ homes make for strange bedfellows

In Mockingbird: Beholding the Lilies of the Field

In CT Insider: ‘Pay for play’ sites remove human touch from architecture

In Common Edge: Does Architecture Have a “Fake News” Problem?

In CT Insider: Will zoning laws in Connecticut catch up with the new realities?

In CT Insider: So what do we do with all those malls and office parks?

In ArchDaily: Are Cities Over? Not So Fast

In New Haven Register: Opinion: Can we prevent the loss of history in New Haven?

In Common Edge: Covid-19 Has Raised the Question: Why Do We Design Buildings?


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



November 24, 2020

‘Tis the season of “Should”:

We should be thankful.

We should sequester.

We should not eat too much this Holiday Season.

We should have a Holiday Season.

We should be joyous that the election is over and that the plague has not killed us all.

We should.

But we eat our feelings. No one stopped smoking. Many more drank much more. Many ramped up their abuse of those who loved them. Twice as many of us have cut to the chase and ended their own lives as we do extreme efforts to lengthen our lives. We gathered, hugged, drank, coughed and fully infected others, too.

We watch a distant political replay recreate a national media show, changing the channel from a bizarre world of sweat-running mascara and the endless rambling of someone disturbingly sober. Most of us do less, see fewer who we love, are nauseated by the thought of another Zoom anything.

This is not the Winter of our Discontent, it is the Unending Season Adrift, with no paddle. The entire world is sick and getting sicker. Some are draconian in forced sequestration, others gleefully ignoring any reality beyond their own expression.

Judgment is not pretty, but it is satisfying for the judges.

And as each possible or impossible vote of about 1/2 of every human in the United States is loved or hated, we are left with no direction, no current to float in, let alone a course. Plotted by who?

No we are each islands, an archipelago of confusion and doubt, looking in one direction to The Continent of Vaccine. I have two arms, two Gluteus Maximii and so far there are 3 vaccines out there, and two more in the pipeline. Maybe I can inject my thigh.

I am ready for The Walking Dead, to try, without any consciousness, to track down Wil Smith and Escape From New York.

We are ready for this to end. But it is not ending. In the horrific Kabuki Transition to Inauguration we will sit at our comically arrayed Tables For 12, filled with 3. There will be enough food to fully consume ourselves into distraction.

But when we wake up, nothing will have changed.

Because about 200 million of us here, and 4 billion of the rest of us need to be ever so lightly infected with a thing that will forestall our death from this particular cause.

Created when a man ate a bat a year ago.

We are all having insane dreams.

This is a bad one.


November 23, 2020


We call a bunch of house-bound isolators on one of the strangest days in our cultural memory: HOMES are our social center: we are both alone and together in our isolation.

Are we grateful?

Are we afraid, angry, resolved?

Are we making dinner?

We call some you know from WPKN, some you do not know, some who are with a pod, some are fully isolated; BUT All Are HOME.

HOME in a time of sequestration: a match made in heaven or a prison of our own making on HOME PAGE..


November 22, 2020

We can only be in one of two places: “With” or “Without.”

The expectation is that we are better “With”: love, warmth, food, family, thought. And while alive we are flooded with all our “With’s”.

But all of us end “Without”.

There is no choice. Lives are never “saved”, they are extended. Until we are “Without.”

But “Without” extends to some of the living. Some come into a place that is simply alone. We start from others, literally. But the others who create us are sometimes not there after creation. Sometimes we decide isolation is better than the alternative.

That was me in 1970. Fifty years ago the safe way was not being part of anything much other than school. My family was not with my brother and I. They opted for isolation, too. It was easier.

But those “With” assume it is the natural state to share, and care for others. A person who was fully gifted of love by a family “With” a great deal (mostly because they were from full families) literally bumped into me. Her “With” life was terrifyingly beautiful to me.

Hunger eats, but when hunger tastes, the joy is extreme.

I soon came home. Met the source of so much, and it was elemental. A young family was made from love and offered it. It was not understood, but I was grateful.

The center of the love was two people. One who tolerated me, and the other, pretty quickly, came to love me. Soon years and events and things made an extension of giving, that I found myself “With” them.

Meals. Gifts. Visits. But really time. Just caring is all. The connection to the humanity that was full feral in my first 15 years of living in a nice home, with nice things. With people. Alone. The reasons are both predictable and done, but were fully overwhelming in my first decade of my understanding.

These 50 years have been vectored by their love – in the personal sense, but more, in the sense that love is known to be the reason we are all alive. It leverages all the other things we construct about it.

Now those two centers are both absent from this time and place. As we all knew it would be. Their family is fully “With” them, even though they are not here, now.

But in full ignorance and no confidence in any understanding beyond the here and now, these two folk, who in some measure saved me, are united. Maybe the Union is in memory. Maybe it is in fact – my inability to understand so much after so many years renders any judgement a wish, or a rationale.

But they are united. Again. Because they really were never apart.

Have You Been to a Quarry?

November 16, 2020

We are on a lump of rock. All of us.

The thinnest of skins of life and some water covers the rock. But we sometimes reveal it. We make a quarry and create the inversion of a glacier top that we see above water.

We see the sea of rock in the quarries we blast and dig thru. Other places have gas, or liquid or, who knows, really. But we live on rock.

This place, this rock, has had life on it for a spec of time in its existing. And that spec of life is the only way we know that anything knows that rock and not rock exist.

A beloved in my life of 50 years is about to leave life. She had lived as immersed in life as those rocks were part of what the quarry. But now she will have their lack of life.

Why do we have trillions of tiny bits of stuff, all in extreme co-ordination, with thousands upon thousands of choreographed connections? We know, some, how some bits do what they do. We do not know much about the way they do what they do. But we know nothing about why we are not the quarry. Zero.

Oh, some attest the mechanism of “evolution”. Duh. Some assert that evolution plus time means anything is possible. Sure. I could play in the NFL, next week, too – if the circumstances were right. All is possible, because our hyper coordinated bits can see a path to it..

But none of us, none, know why we, and all of life, is not subsumed in a quarry.

It takes the absence of life, where life once existed, to put a mirror to ourselves, Old folk like me see it more than younger, We know the end will happen, but when?

With the surety of those who know that time and evolution makes the most insanely complicated realities our minds can (not) understand, others know (know) a life after life. We know it because we believe it.

I do not know anything. But I know this whole freak show of unfathomable numbers and varieties of cells are woven together as if each was placed in precise connection to others, then put in interaction in unending ways of making and remaking movement, thought, feeling.

The opposite of the quarry.

There is no knowing the meaning, let alone the mechanisms of creation. But there is the obvious insanity of assuming that we have it all settled. We know that this is just another quarry. Made in the same way that it was made.

Nothing to see here. Keep on making dinner. Or reading. Or more likely, now, looking at your phone.

The world has put the world on display as a place that people can die in an instant over these last 8 months. And with think an election solves it. Well, not death, but before we fail in this plague, maybe we won’t die when we do not want to. Or not as early as we could. Or…

No, we do not know why we are not a quarry. There is faith in that understanding if you can accept it.

Safe Church

November 14, 2020

Ironies Happen.

Horrific abuse by adults upon minors has plagued all places where trust allowed for violation. Boys Scouts, school, and, yes, where people go to be closer to God.

The results have nearly bankrupted some churches, wrecked others, and fully changed the mindset of every adult towards every child in every place of worship: it has even been codified in a broad perspective and hard-edged revision of conduct, even rebuilding physical layouts of buildings. That necessary and right protection regimen has been dubbed “Safe Church”.

In the wake of COVID19, almost no one here in the northeast goes into places of worship, so the opportunity for abuse has abated. Until it returns. But until it does the phrase “Safe Church” has a new meaning. Now, it seems, Church is more dangerous than other places.

“I do not want this church to open until no one will feel guilty about being afraid to attend it.” said one cleric on a Zoom meeting this summer. Safety of everyone, in every way, no matter if the person is present or wants to be present.

Guilt or insensitivity are the collateral damage of righteousness. Finding them is thus a prime directive of those who want no guilt and no insensitivity. Is that absence possible, even if we are fully open and affirming in all ways?

I do not think so.

Whether we believe in God or not, we live our lives under one essential structure “First Do No Harm”. In this Plague Time that has come to mean lock downs and being masked. And yet we are exploding in infections. Everywhere, even where whole nations across the world legally kept everyone indoors.

I think there is a finite limit to the avoidance of harm. When I could not do what others could do, in school, in sports, in my career, I felt hurt, inadequate, discovered as being inferior. I felt victimized by others doing exactly zero against my wants and desires.

Of course we cannot sing, together. Of course we cannot be nearer than 2 meters apart . Of course we must be masked. Of course we cannot be in confined spaces. But even when we do all those things, we still can project a lack of safety to some.

So when Supreme Court Justice Alito drives some crazy by saying closing or limiting houses of worship as a “disfavored right” while more extensive opening of casinos and shopping malls happens across town, I wonder, are the places where we try to meet God different than where we go to do anything, now, or ever?

Right now, in the northeast, it is. Gatherings in churches and other spiritually focused spaces are more restricted in the number of people than other public places. Phase 2 of my home state of Connecticut’s COVID19 regulations allows 25% capacity up to 100 people inside a church. Libraries, “personal services” and restaurants can have 50% and no upper limit. Why?

In Connecticut there was no high school football as well, (save the oddly named “touch” in a socially distanced mindset). But similarly, there probably will be indoor wrestling We are in a strange time where the aesthetics and peripheral realities of gathering may mean as much or more than the actual act of gathering.

So, some who love the church want no one in churches in this season. While those outside church want fewer people in church than in other places. But most all of us just want to be safe. Well, at least children are more safe in places of worship during these horrid times, with none of it due to “Safe Church” policy.

I just want to be in proximity to those who love God. It is not enough for me to watch on a screen, or reading Mockingbird, I want to be in Sacred Space, unthreatened and unthreatening: I want spiritual safety. We know how to do this. Stay apart. Do not sing. Do not speak in unison. Do not be in small spaces.

But these rules are not enough it seems. We can still threaten each other just by being in places others want to be but will not go. Or even being threatened while being in places at a lower concentration than in other places at higher concentrations allowed by law. Because…

We are in purgatory. The venal, profane world of our normal humanity has been pulled away from its social vehicles. Our connection to sacred space and with each other has been fully circumscribed. We cannot act on our worst impulses, or, in the case of being part of our sacred spaces, acting to be with others with God – but only because we might infect others.

But we are infecting each other more effectively than than at anytime since this plague commenced. We are less safe, in every way – except for the victims of those preying on the least of us. That Safe Church reality is a reality that we can have, for now.

To sleep, perchance…

November 11, 2020

What is sleep?

We often cannot avoid it. But now, in COVID19, we often cannot find it. Endless sleep-inducing video programs, chemicals, pillows, mattresses are hawked as if they were miracle cures to a disease that is a plague only diminished by the vast pandemic we are wrestling with each day.

We all sleep. We all wake up, sometimes at the time when we should be asleep. Insomnia is the new smoker’s cough. Talk of insane dreams – startling in intensity, inscrutable in their origin and meaning, afflict almost everyone I know.

In the silent black of illegitimate, undesired insomnia, we scroll our tiny screens through endless images and messages, rewarding undesired behavior with distraction that furthers it. What am I doing to create this purgatory between sleep and sleep, this depressing halftime show between the insane dreams born of…what?

As an alternative to the screen scrolling, I think and deduce, mostly confirming my own failures or inadequacies. Whether caused by, or causing the night terrors I have always had, there is never joy at 2AM. Turning to a side, rolling to my back looking into night, I realize that all the other men I have known – and not known – have been in this position.

Alone. Black. Silent. My few pounds of brain dance and work in a frenzy that never confers peace, but exhausts to generate the next dream. My father was not a happy man when I knew him. He drank each night to the point of early sleep, often after full on frenzied anger. My grandfather had an intense life, where work was never enough, and his children never followed in his shoes. They could not have found piece in these nocturnal islands of inadequacy.

The world is otherwise good, at times in that silence my inventory finds me fully asymptomatic of all dreads. My wife quietly snores next to me. Sometimes a text or email delights or energizes me. But most often the sense that I do not belong here in this place of dread and post dream confusion asks the simple question:

What is real?

I have known those who use drugs and booze to create a reality that does not exist when not drunk or high, even to the point that they reason that is why they are alive, to live in those states. Are those dreams a reality that somehow we want to live in a place where are fears are as real as our joys? But with zero conscious effort. If I never had a dream again, that would be a joy, despite any insomnia.

We seem to be in a time of dreams and nightmares. When I feel whole and healthy in between dreams, I wake up fat. We go through four years of a bizarre presidency, and soon we will wake up. But we are not cured of ourselves. We are who we have always been, that is why we woke up.

We are in the serial rollercoaster in handcuffs living the COVID19 nightmare, but there is a vaccine, it will be ours in a finite amount of time. The extreme limits, fear, lifestyle headlock will be over. Will we change? Will it be the Roaring ’20’s like the last time this happened?

Our bodies were not changed by this plague – those that live on are what they are, like our bodies between those insane recreations of them we experience in dreams.

The Constitution was always there, despite all the rants of Facism and Socialism, and we come away from the last four years almost perfectly split under its umbrella, like fighting children under its protection in a rainstorm.

I guess each of us is always there when we wake up, too, In the intensity of our brain’s creations, we lose sight, I lose sight: that the rest of my reality is not living in my dreams.

That is something.

Humility Won

November 5, 2020

The shouting has not stopped. It never will.

But reality emerged from rhetoric this week. Perhaps for the first time in 5 years.

No, Facism is not where we are, or where we are going. We are free to vote and realize the results, no matter how messy.

There is no mandate, except for tolerance.

This is not just a democracy of people, it is a democracy of place. The Senate will be the place of Place in America.

The anger and righteousness did not create a crushing defeat for anyone. People expressed, now they are listening.

The hate from, and the hate towards, whoever has abated. While anger abides, the lack of retribution was loud.

More people probably voted Tuesday than have ever voted before in America, we’ll see. The seeming winner sets a record, the loser, probably, a close second.

We are each different in perspective, location, demographics and perceived class and righteousness – but everyone who wanted to voice the facts, did – that will end the insanity of our hubris.

Somehow, for a few days, every predictor that was loudest in its projection, every one, was wrong in their pontification. Of course, our course will find direction, then, immediately, it will create opposition, no matter what the course is.

But for now, the bluster, the fear, the anger, is gone. For now.

In their place, perhaps, just a bit, a glimpse of humility. Our feelings can be consuming, but our reality is unavoidable.