Skip to content

Welcome to Saved by Design

September 21, 2020

New Stuff:

In Random Stuff: No Sense

In Home Page: Real Estate & The Home, Now

In Absence: Easters

In Left To Myself: Which System?

In Emily’s Days: Coda

In Not (As) Fat: One Meal A Day

In Finding Home: Justification

In The Rules: Architecture and The Failed Model of Genius

In Silence In SpringFlaw Flourishes

In Days ’till Spring: 40 Days

“Accessory” HOME

September 22, 2020

NOON THURSDAY SEPTEMBER 24! LIVE! 89.5FM, STREAMING wpkn.org

Forgive the sexism, but once upon a time it was said that “A man’s home is his castle.” That ownership imperative meant that “Single Family Zoning” was the Law of Suburban America for three generations after World War 2. In the 21st century, Climate Change, Sustainability, New Urbanism and now COVID 19 have all raised the question of “Density” – more people living on each acre of land.

Connecticut has some of the most established and built-out suburban communities in America. There is now precious little land left for residential development – so little that “tear-downs” has become a word. That scarcity has meant that housing costs, and taxes, are among the highest anywhere in the country as well.

When need butts up against opportunity change happens. But change, as someone once said, is hard. In the light of a pandemic the density of living in mid and high rises in New York City is now newly dangerous. In the full apprehension of climate change more people living closer together creates less carbon and thus lessening the cost on infrastructure. The competition between property value and social good is coming to a head in one building type, not new, but newly important.

Across the country the legality of “Accessory Dwelling Unit”’s (CDU) is being debated, and zoning laws changed. There is a growing drumbeat to modify local zoning codes to accept greater flexibility beyond the freestanding single-family home zoning that has dominated suburban life for three generations. The larger wheels of sustainability, diversity, and increasing the value of our homes have meant new ways of thinking about how we protect communities in the ways zoning codes restrict uses.

The issues are complex. What about the benefits of intergenerational living in one place? Why shouldn’t you be allowed to expand your home without “adding on” and killing trees and making massive homes? Should zoning promote income diversity? As parents age, and children cannot afford to live separately in Connecticut should several generations of families be allowed to live on one site in their own dwelling units?

Beyond that, the post pandemic economy will be different from the one we have now. We may need to expand the use of single-family homes to recognize home offices. Costs may increase to the point where the homes purchased generations ago provide an income stream (for both property taxes for towns and rental income for homeowners)?

As we come out of sequestration, get vaccinated, and look to the future, the landscape will change. Like the three bear’s porridge, the density of The City may be “too hot”, the isolation of the single-family home may be “Too Cold”, but something in between may be “Just Right”.

HOME PAGE welcomes those on the cutting edge of this evolving landscape: Homeowner Paul Czepiga knows the issue as one who is creating a “CDU” for his family, Joan Arnold directs Allied Community Enterprises in Westchester and has worked on all forms of housing prototypes and reinventions, and Carrie Makeover is on the Fairfield Affordable Housing Committee, and served as a planner in Westport for over 20 years. JOIN US!

 

News

September 21, 2020

READ:

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?

In Mockingbird: Smack In The Middle Of “Ordinary Time,” With You

In CT Insider: The ’burbs have new appeal as long as fear drives decisionmaking

In ArchDaily: Christopher Alexander is Building a Legacy in Beauty

In CT Insider: Duo Dickinson declares the winners and losers in the COVID-19 home

In Mockingbird: No, Not That Cancel Culture

In Common Edge: Is Virtual Architecture Inherently Disingenuous?

In Mockingbird: Masked Morality

In ArchDaily: Swamp Yankee Architect: Recycling as a Lifestyle

                                                                                                             

Recent Images

Progress in Greenwich

                                                                                                             

 The outdoor chapel at Incarnation Camp in Ivoryton, CT

Click here to read about the project.

   

                                                                                                             

CEPHAS Housing 25 Years Ago in Yonkers NY

Click here to read about the project.

                                                                                                             

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

                                                                                                             

No Sense

September 19, 2020

Life is not politics.

That was not so obvious in these months. Everything is qualified (or disqualified) by whether you want the President to be our president or not. There is less and less tolerance, more and more nullification of any validity of any credibility depending on what you believe was best for our government. People speak of revolution and “saving our country” and fascism – when we are having an election in a month.

But love does not respect those concerns.

We are not built by our beliefs, efforts, or achievements. We are made, wholly by things we cannot explain. Sure, a sperm meets an egg, a cell divides, a being results. But the complexities of what we see, feel and do has no legitimate causation, no formula of manufacture.

We are not the sum of our parts, we are the mystery of life. To me that means we are children of God. Answerable to the completely impossible possibilities of love and sacrifice. That we are all given.

Antonin Scalia and Ruth Bader Ginsberg were fully politicized. One was a rock of conservative thought, the other an icon of liberal theory. Both went through the full vetting and voting of the US government to be on the highest court we created. Both got over 90 votes out of 100. Both never let a contested decision go uncommented upon, with extreme rigor and passion. This was serious business. The future of our culture was being wrecked or saved by their votes – and they almost always disagreed.

And they loved each other.

Why? One a robust Catholic, fully Christian. The other a devoted and observant Jew. One a hunter. The other a thinker. One a white male in a time when we ruled. The other a woman in a time of oppression and prejudice.

But they loved each other.

Those who knew them say they loved opera, food, and, of course the law. But that is not why they and their spouses loved being together.

They laughed.

In the dark, intense moralizing of knowing and imposing the Truth through Law, the intense arguments of history and logic, the ethical breast beating of dogged belief, they just loved each other.

It is because, in the end, they knew that their passions did not define them. God had already done that. You can laugh when you know that while you may know your truth, the greater truth is not yours to know. The greater truth is our humanity, and that is the clearest ring of God’s bell that we can hear.

There is no reason to laugh. Pain, injustice, fear, danger is all around us, every day – amped up by our megaphones in technology and systems.

But we laugh.

It makes no sense.

If the world was ours to make we would do nothing but make it, be with those who wish to make it the way we wish to make it. We would not waste our time, denigrate it, even validate what we reject, by being with it.

But they loved each other.

My best friend in high school was fairly much oppositional to me. I volunteered to be in NROTC (unsuccesfully). She wanted the soldiers out of Vietnam. Now. I loved football, deeply. She hated it. She had a near ideal family. I was alone.

But we love each other, after 50 years.

We do not choose love, it chooses us. Because God made us, not we ourselves. We simply can effect the gifts that we were given and refined, or not. We can close our minds to others because it threatens our belief in our righteousness.

Or we can love those we love. Not everyone. (Sorry, Jesus). But we can love those that for no reason are dear to us.

The greater truth reunited Ruth and Antonin yesterday.

I know they are laughing.

Triumph of the Will

September 13, 2020

in 1935 Leni Riefenstahl created a terrific depiction of a horrible reality. Nazi Germany was glowingly depicted in her film “Triumph of the Will”. Her aesthetic was not an argument, it was an aesthetic of human empowerment, content free beyond the compelling vision of human commitment.

A beautiful nightmare that froze the worst of us in the vision of what is our best reality: our devotion to something more than ourselves. The “more” here was Hitler, who embodied the very worst of humanity. Supported by the very best in any of us.

That the devotion of our will – my will, your will – can triumph is uniquely compelling for we humans. We might control what we can control, and if enough, we can, perhaps, make a reality that we want, not what we are consigned to accept.

This year, our will is almost completely subordinated by the reality of a plague. Almost.

Pockets of humans are attempting to do things against a dominant reality. Not for the hideous brutality of a lunatic, but for the desire to do what those doing love. Athletes can train, then even play together. Musicians try to make beauty together as much as technology and ingenuity allow. We are building things, as groups of us work to make things and not infest ourselves and those around us.

Of course humans love expression to the point of disregarding others. Like those in “Triumph of the Will”. But the varieties and redemption in our lives is without a rule book of “Can” and “Can’t” beyond our corporeal limits.

We do not need to do more than we should. But we want to. So we try. We focus and do fewer things with more focus and narrow our efforts to fully project our will into what we can.

Football is brutal. It hurts. It is merciless, but it is redemptive. Football projects devotion like few other venues.

A boy wanted to play football a decade ago, in a quiet New England town. He was devoted. He played some in his high school team that was traditionally quite good. But this boy was quite good for skills, but wanting in strength and size. But he was an athlete, so much so that he started his senior year as a lineman, and ended up as a wide receiver.

No awards, other than Varsity, no recognition. Just the joy of playing

But some people noticed. He was recruited by a Division 1 school. He went. His will transformed him to start at 300 pounds. He learned for 2 years. Graduated at 20, he went to a Great Football University to start his last two years. And receive the awards he could not in high school. Because he did not accept the past was prologue beyond the past of his extreme will.

He was drafted into the bizzarre world of NFL extremity. And he made the cut. He ended up both seeing and starting an NFL game for the first time today. His 5th year of starting as a lineman at the highest level after playing wide receiver to no acclaim beyond potential.

But he is just an island of reality.

The entire NFL tried to play in a plague, saying anyone could opt out, no penalty other than salary. The created an island of Will, in a place of danger. Anyone in the league is a millionaire, so there was ample latitude to avoid the danger of getting sick, and the danger of getting others sick.

But after initial efforts, there have been 5 weeks and 15,000 tests of over 2,000 people and one positive test.

The Triumph of the Will.

The Lure of What You Cannot Have

September 8, 2020

When hormones kicked in, there was that person.

You were young, but not infantile, just not grown up. And she was was beautiful.

But impossible to even talk to.

The lure of heaven is that you are alive on earth. When you are unable to connect, you want connection. Absence makes the heart grow fonder.

We are in a season of “Can’t.” This weekend, we are taking a legal trip to do what I do for my life’s work, and hoped to connect to a distant friend. But now his life’s mission meant that connection to others was not possible as the risks of COVID made it officially prohibited.

I cannot sing. Oh how I love singing.

My mother desperately wanted Ross Perot to be President.

But many architects are in extreme devotion to the impossibly extreme. Insanely expensive, fully impractical, unrelated to gravity, context or humanity – just exquisitely human in its impossibility. Or the Time Travelled to Perfect Replication of antiquity, completely in worship of what was, in complete disregard for today.

I know that the deeply religious in most anything – science, football, opera – and the allure (beyond its beauty) is its impossibility. Being a “fan” is not the devotion in some. Watching in suspension to appreciate what is before you is not devotion.

Intellectual creation of rational justification is only necessary if you cannot have what you love. I can not justify working all Labor Day Weekend on Tiny and Large Things that are trying to get built: no hearings, meetings, permit application – just what I do.

Doing and wanting are not exclusive, we created children, we had a stellar dinner Friday, there was church in church Sunday. By wanting and not being able to do has a grip on our perspective.

My mentor introduced the early 20’s me to somebody saying “He is in heat to design something.” True that. But having had thousands of things to help create in the 40 years since, now that desire is devotion. And entitlement. And jealousy. And failure.

What you can not have is a safe devotion. You cannot lose if you can not play. Fantasy Football offers playing without risk. Even the lowest playing any effort has failure.

But if failure happens in devotion to the impossible, is it still failure. Ross Perot was never possible. College football was never possible for me, despite the movie “Rudy”. So I did not fail trying to play in college.

Half of those who we enrolled in the best architecture school in America (mine in the 1970’s) did not get the degree they tried to train for. Were they failures – or was the school a failure for picking those who probably should not have been admitted?

We are filled with impossibilities in our lives: singing together, hugging, even shaking hands. They become hugely desired in their absence.

We now have an impossibility as President. Those who wanted an impossibility made it possible, now another impossibility looms in 7 weeks: re-election. Getting what you want is the essence of empowering. But we never know before we get it, that what we wanted is what we should have.

Missing Vacation

September 5, 2020

It’s been six months since we knew that life would not be the same.

We responded with Puritanical Self-Righteousness, Angry Entitlement, Mock Scientific Reverence, but mostly fear.

But no matter how we responded, our lizard brains saw that contact meant danger, and we scurried into our holes. That scurrying meant 2.2 million would not die, but our entitlement and ignorance meant that 400,000 will in the U.S. That is not nothing.

This year started in the Kabuki Dance of an Impeachment and is ending with the Freakshow of an Election. With a presidential nomination, murder, riots, hurricanes in between.

Some of us Type A self-justifiers simply worked thru it.

I have had 6 remote employees, now partially separating, for these six months. The first 2 months I was entirely alone in the office. I have been in the office all but 5 days out of the last 145. The 5 days were spent rectifying things in our home while one of our sons was there to help with one interstate site visit. Another next week.

No surprise there. No “Hero” garbage of fawning ads conferred to those who simply do less to save their own skin. This simple grind had a respite in sight for the first 5 months – our annual one week off, for lo these 25 years. Spent in the heaven of northern Vermont.

Northern Vermont is near COVID free, not for anything they did or didn’t do, but because almost no one went there. So it was not a little surprising when the august and fully empowered Law declared that our county (in a state with no counties), Connecticut (which did do much to have fewer folk get sick) was just too dangerous without sequestration before we went. We were not told that until it was too late to sequester in time(and I probably could not have, anyway). And we would not lie.

So no vacation for 24 months. Got it. Let’s go.

So work has eaten up the time since. And this 65 year old machine, with great and abundant fuel, and no mechanical difficulties, finds itself just a bit in need of a little more lubrication. It’s getting a little grindy

But that is true for all of us.

The note of a Miracle Vaccine in months is not greeted with “Great!” It is greeted with “Right.” (See the part about “Election”).

What is the wisdom imparted by these half year? None, to my understanding.

Unnecessary Complexity

August 30, 2020

Numbers become meaningless beyond a scale. Trillions of dollars thrown at a pandemic’s effects meant everyone in the US received $1,200. Everyone understood the latter, almost no one understands where it came from.

We all are what we see, feel, eat, dream, do – but we do not understand how it is we are those things. Sure, science does give names, defines the mechanical facts of physical transactions to a point. But how does bacteria get in our intestines that breaks down what our food becomes once we release the chemicals that break it down? How did those chemicals come to be generated in every mammal?

Of course, “Evolution”.

“Time” is the magic elixir of evolution. We just have no comprehension of the infinite length of days that has molded us. Infinite time = complexity. We in a 24 hour a day life live time, so we excuse complexity with that lens.

So describe the failures to me? The first stomach, the crude uses of organic material as food? Then how that food was reorganized into cells? And what about the deeper processes of all the things subcellular?

Oh, then you mention “God”

What we cannot know (yet) we ascribe to the Devine.

Sure, Intelligent Design, the Cosmic Architect defines, builds, evolves. Just like me. I can understand that. Which is why I can think it.

A friend died this week. He was a doctor. He insisted on knowing how he was dying, worked to extend his sentient time left, and was extremely active up until this summer. When huge focus is in death during a COVID Season, his death was just the common pedestrian failure of a body due to things that were not caused by anything beyond those physical definitions and mechanical actions my friend knew as well as any one I know.

But my friend was unnecessarily complex.

He spent years understanding history, cultures, community, the biosphere we are given, even people around him. Like me. Oh, and he spent a life learning enough, so he could do enough, that he could extend lives and train others to do so.

Oh, and he had a large family that he deeply, publicly loved.

Oh, and he knew that something was more important, but completely inscrutable in the warp and woof of everything he studied and lived. He knew there was God. Not the construction of religion that we can know because we made it: the harder truth of knowing enough to know that the insane complexity in every cell, let alone the huge and huger assemblies of them is beyond the time it took to create it.

But there was one central, elemental truth to my friend. He loved you.

Completely unnecessary, unearned, unreasonable. He loved you because he loved the world we are, despite, or perhaps because it was all so insanely, irrationally, inexplicably complex and diverse.

There is no reason in life. It is not a construction. It is a gift, unearned. It is received by those who are given it, but it is given to us, all for no known reason. Oh, of course Darwin saw the love of your children to the point of saving them while killing yourself perpetuated the survival of the species.

But the love of my friend perpetuated nothing. There was no defined, measured, net-net result. It was just love.

I help make things for my life. I am an architect. I help put together materials, systems, codes, money, places and help define what we build. For 45 years. But I am just a brief bit of wind that blows one stick upon another in the unfathomable complexity of the world I, and you, live in.

My friend knew that. And still loved me. Because I think he knew God.

Real Estate & The Home, Now

August 23, 2020

THURSDAY, August 27th NOON, WPKN 89.5FM, Streaming http://www.wpkn

We all live somewhere, and some of us own where we live, especially in places like Connecticut and Long Island where single family homes fully fill the landscape. In the last 40 years there have been unending Boom/Bust Cycles in Real Estate: The Gas Crisis, The Reagan Boom, The S&L Crisis, The Clinton Economy, The Tech Bubble, 9-11, The Housing Bubble, 2008, The Obama Recovery, COVID-19 – and now in a matter of months The Connecticut Housing Boom.

So quickly that anecdotes are its best data, the last two months have seen a Contrarian Paradise where “Bedroom Community” homes are spiking in Value, reports are price explosions of 20% in one month, unsolicited offers to buy homes not on the market, bidding wars, Real Estate Agents declaring a sudden explosion in interest during a Pandemically Stunted economy.

What is Up?

This is a show of anecdotal information: we are in the middle of a radical change in Connecticut, set between the Apple and the Bean – NY and Boston.  I have new homes commissioned on Long Island and throughout CT.  A group of 9 homes, in Madison, Ct, had 7 have commitments to buy in less than 4 days when the listing was posted.  Anecdotes create history, but not trends, patterns, the future.  We do not know the future, but listening allows us to understand where we are.  The HOME PAGE is about listening to the front lines of how people are changing their lives, first through their homes.

What is Up?

HOME PAGE brings in those on the front lines of home buying and selling to get some clarity and perspective with 4 Real Estate professionals that have different perspectives and markets up and down the shore of Long Island Sound.

Leigh Whiteman Is a real estate broker and leader of The Whiteman Team at William Raveis Real Estate. She has been selling real estate up and down the Connecticut Shoreline since 1988 and has helped her clients 

Todd Gould has lived on the Connecticut shore his entire life. He has been a broker/manager/owner for 27 years, from a family that has been involved in Real Estate for generations, and lives the market. 

Margaret Muir is a residential waterfront property expert who helped open Sotheby’s Affiliate offices in this part of the state 15 years ago – an office based in Madison Margaret has spent 30 years selling unique Ct shoreline properties largely second and third home purchases. 

In 1973, Tom Gorin became a full-time realtor, joining the venerable Greenwich independent firm Cleveland, Duble & Arnold. He was a broker and the sales manager for thirty years, Always active in the real estate community, Tom was the 2005 Realtor of the Year of the Greenwich Association and was honored to be inducted into their Hall of Fame in 2010.

Which System?

August 23, 2020

“Systemic Racism” is now a reality in the talking (screaming) of our culture.

I lived in downtown Buffalo for high school. My chief love for those years was football. The private, suburban, day school I went to had scholarships, and often those were from my side of town – just on the other side of Main Street, dubbed “The Fruit Belt” because of the street names. I lived one block west of “The Fruit Belt” in “Allentown” (all around Allen Street).

Those living in “The Fruit Belt” were black, “Allentown” was mixed, now fully gentrified. We all took the Niagara Frontier Transit bus north to school. So I spent hundreds of hours in transit, as did my friends. Who, at my end, were black.

I was totally clueless, having never played any sport, and was from the Lilly White part of Westchester County, New York. But soon, it was clear that those who loved anything were connected. Football connected me to my body, to pain, to everyone on the team, and, really, to irrational love.

My black teammates were, no doubt in a different place, maybe they knew I was, too. It did not matter. We were in this together. I liked them very much. I think they liked me, despite my near total incompetence.

When I could play a little, in 1971, we were on the bus after a Friday practice. Sitting together as we did. By the time it got down to our neighborhoods, I may have been the only Caucasian on the bus.

“Are you going to the [name redacted] party?” It was to be Saturday night, after the game.

“No.” My friends replied.

“Yeah, I am never invited. I think it’s because I don’t drink”

One of my friends looked at me and said “We weren’t invited, either.”

“Yup.” I said.

The connection went beyond football for that second. I was simply not buying the Prep thing. I had to achieve to have a place, because my family was not a place for any of those growing up in it.

My friends were not in the Prep world, either.

But we loved playing.

We were part of systems, “The Fruit Belt”, “”Allentown”, suburban, private day school. We were Buffalo, Upstate New York, America. But we were White and Black. Although I had no choice living where I did, or going to the school I did. I had many choices after that. Many systems.

My friends had fewer systems open to them.

But the one System we are, the Human System, is inscrutably based in Love – and Fear. I know that race is part of every life. The deep unfathomable fears that made our going to parties beyond the school setting impossible were not there for me. But I had the choice to drink, and thus go. There is no choice in race.

But I did not. We did not have to play football, or even ride that NFT bus (transportation was provided by the school, too). But we did. We fell into that system. I really had no known choice in 1971 – this is what I loved. I think they knew that. Actually I know they did.

That was almost 50 years ago.

My life now is in a suburb, vastly white, as are those I work with. There is no one System, just life. However, those on my job sites are a United Nations of love for making things.

My academic life in a largely white, private, suburban day school was to me the predicate for playing football. I chose none of where I was, but I chose going to Ivy Land Architecture, which was vastly white, male and Prep in 1973 – it was another System – but I chose it because it was necessary to make things.

Love of football, love of making things, love of those who do that with me is as natural as eating or sleeping to me. Love is a system of unconditional positive regard. Hate is a system of unconditional fear.

There is no “System” geared to these realities, they are in each of us, literally in our humanity. The results may become systematic, self-justifying, protecting the cruelty of mass imposition of irrational fear. Being 65 I know this.

But love knows and needs no System, it just is. No one is anything but me: Human. We did not ask to be born or ultimately know the worth of our devotion, but we either love or hate.

That is a system we did not make, but we can act on.