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October 9, 2015

New Stuff:

In Left To Myself : Fumble Drill

In Random Stuff: Head Trauma

In Not (As) Fat: Fat & Drunk

In Finding Home: Bumper Stickered

In The Rules:  The Illusion of Value 

In Home Page The Meanings of Home 

The Illusion of Value

October 9, 2015


No potential client has ever said to me “I found you through”. This is distinct from HOUZZ which has become the Google of home design web surfing.

Loews has “partnered” with Porch: meaning there is a lot of cash for sponsorship: if was ever an independent media platform, it would be as if the New York Times was “sponsored by” the Democratic Party. That slide into full advertorial status had its next step where a broadcast email this AM begged me to be one of the 4 regional “Porch Guaranteed Professional”‘s.

The “Porch Guaranteed Professional” guarantee involves a “back ground check” and an oath that I would stand behind my work. If those are forthcoming, Porch says that when you ascend to the “Porch Guaranteed Professional” Porch will “promote you at the top of our placements across You’ll be able to show off your work in the neighborhoods you serve and land more jobs than your competitors.”

But, of course, there’s more: money.

A long rambling “Terms of Agreement” link describes “payments” being owed as services are contracted: – a finder’s fee, vigorish, pimp share, whatever: the bottom line is that “new journalism” has virtually zero rules, ethics, canons or “standards and practices” that give any platform any credibility. Money gets exposure as if there was no money exchanged: no “sponsored by” no tiny “advertisement” typed into an upper right corner of the “top placement”.

HOUZZ’s program of swapping cash for editorial focus, also offers anyone coughing up the cake will get the placement, the exposure, the featured presence independent of expertise, creativity or a track record beyond, in Porch’s case, a “back ground” check…

Just like HOUZZ, Porch seeks to channel every human’s desire to better their cave by offering access to info: but if “placement” follows dollars then its not about expertise, credibility, or creativity: its about cash.

A local architect sponsors a local NPR station, the firm’s name pops up several times everyday, meaning my friend has forked over some serious coin: but a local radio station has no claim to insights into the best architect might be: and NPR is nominally a not-for-profit – unlike HOUZZ or Porch.

Amid all the fundraising for local NPR stations you would have to be deaf not to know that money equals name dropping: and if you love that station then you like those that give money to support it. HOUZZ and Porch are for-profit companies, but they want you to love them enough that they can parlay that love to get professionals to pay for its association with their product or services.

Monetizing: its the American way: but the hidden greasing of palms while proferring objective recognition of excellence is disingenuous at best and, in fact, is basically deceitful in its hidden economics.

Credibility is hard to get: HOUZZ has it and is humping its worth hard. Porch has not much: and has humped its “reach” to Loews and now other advertisers to stay afloat.

Maybe I am just deluded, but the emotional wrench to make a place yours, to create a home out of an anonymous place is a tender place in the human heart. When banks exploited that emotion to create insane mortgages that led to bankruptcies and foreclosures it was criminal.

When HOUZZ and Porch exploit that softly desperate quest to live in a place you love to generate ad dollars in the guise of providing hope to homeowners, its not criminal, but it is cynical.


October 7, 2015

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Under Construction

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Getting Done in San Francisco

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Recently Completed!


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The outdoor chapel at Incarnation Camp in Ivoryton, CT

Click here to read about the project.

CEPHAS Housing 25 Years Ago in Yonkers NY

Click here to read about the project.

CEPHAS-Existing-001-copyCephas Ext4aCephas Ext2Cephas PR Dwg4ps


In New Haven Register: When Things Go South – Design Can’t Save Bad Building

In Hartford Courant (login required): The Classroom of the Future

In New Haven Register: When Branding Becomes Blanding in New Haven

In Home Living Magazine: City Living: An Award Winning Renovation

In Hartford Courant: What CT Has Is History- Don’t Neglect It

In New Haven Independant: Architect Couple, Institute Library Snag Awards

In Hartford Courant: History is Precious

In New Haven Register: New Haven’s Court Street is ‘like its own little town’

In Hartford Courant (login required): Smart Home Design In A City That’s Neighborly

In New Haven Register: Villas on a ridge, New Haven’s Hillhouse Avenue

In Townvibe: Simple Pleasures, an Artful Blend of Modern and Traditional

In Hartford Courant (login required): A Classic Street Ages, But Retains its Beautiful Bones

In New Haven Register: Forum: Yale, Pearl Harbor bridge projects show branding matters, money follows

In New York Times: Everything and the Kitchen Sink

In New Haven Register: Millennial Meme Housing Sprouts in New Haven

In Hartford Courant (login required): “Christmas in Connecticut” was Perfect for War-Weary 1945 American Moviegoers

In Room One Thousand: Sixty Panes of Faith

In Behind the Walls: The Not So Tiny House Movement (Part 1)

In AIA: It’s not the Media: It’s the Work

In New Haven Register: Quarantining Architecture

In New Haven Register: Weeds on New Haven’s Oak Street Lawn

In New Haven Magazine: Back Yard Forward

In New Haven Register: Ultimate Gesture of Architectural Modesty is a Buried Building

In New Haven Register: Tulips, Architecture Students & Bubbles that Burst

In New Haven Register: Flood tide of rental housing could change New Haven’s landscape

In New Haven Magazine: Still by the Sea

In New Haven Magazine: Preserving the Past for the Future

In River & Shore’s Coastal Homes: Boy Was It Worth It

In New Haven Magazine: From Family to Farm

In The New Haven Register: Ultimate Gesture of Architectural Modesty Is Buried Building

In The New Haven Register: Yale’s Evans Hall: Overdressed for Success

In New Haven Magazine: Cubed

In New Haven Magazine: Finding Design

In The New Haven Register:  Pearl Harbor Bridge in New Haven Extension of Greatest Generation’s Legacy

In Hartford Faith & Values:  An Elevator on Orchard Street

In The New Haven Register:  Are Neighbors More Neighborly when there is Greater Density?

In New Haven Magazine: Lawyers In Love

In Ink Magazine:  Architect Duo Dickinson: Celebrating 35 Years of Good Design for Everyone

In New Haven Magazine: A House of Homes

In The Source:  Duo Dickinson, Architect at Large

In River & Shore’s Coastal Homes:  On the Indian River

In The New Haven Register:  Aesthetically inconvenient Mudd Library faces death sentence

In Connecticut Magazine: Elements of Surprise

In The New Haven Register: Real Icons Aplenty in New Haven

In The Mercurial: Erosion Revelation

In Architecture Boston: Post-Modernism and Intelligent Design

In Design Bureau: Steve & Frank

Archive: Real Life Survival Guide



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

On HGTV:  Mercedes Home Diaries       Password: mercedes



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

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

Head Trauma

October 1, 2015

Two sets of high school students engage in activity that arguably may cause head trauma: playing football and smoking weed.

There are about 16,000,000 kids in US high schools. According to the InterWebNets over 6% smoke dope everyday. Every day, about 1,000,000 kids get high, or probably, maintain a softened, deadened state of not caring.

There are also, oddly enough, about 1,000,000 kids that are on high school football teams. They practice 5 days a week, usually 3 days with contact, and about 1/4 of that number play in games for a 6th day, 4 months a year.

As a culture the US is inextricably legalizing marijuana, and, simultaneously there seems to be the discovery that contact sports are dangerous, so some schools are ending football programs as parents become turned off to the sport’s dangers.

Clearly many concussions, or simply head traumas damage the brain. Equally sure is that the daily use of marijuana completely rewires parts of the brain to be permanently compromised.

Yet football is portrayed as outrageous and should be outlawed and marijuana benign enough to be legalized.

I have known perhaps 500 people that have played football. A few admit that they think football did affect their mental abilities. I have also known 100’s of weed enthusiasts and virtually every one of them asserts that you think differently when you get high every day.

Several parents I know have kids who are getting high every day. They feel powerless to inhibit their kids: part of that is our cultural slide into tolerance for weed. I know other parents who have stopped their sons from playing football or discouraged it.

We parents want our children to be perfectly safe. That is simply not possible. But we also have part of our minds locked into cultural appraisals of right and wrong.

Football is sliding into the “wrong” side, and marijuana is sliding into the “not illegal” side. Despite any number of studies football is not a gateway sport to violence, though those who play play better when they play violently.

Despite all apologists those who smoke weed every day are almost guaranteed to go onto more dangerous experimentation. Football ends for all but the freakishly talented in the early ’20’s. Dope can be forever.

Perception is 9/10 of fact for many people: the sad, tragic face of a football player’s suicide, probably facilitated by head trauma is a terrible outcome. But millions upon millions of humans starting a pattern of daily marijuana use in high school, or earlier, is slow motion tragedy: as lives become limp, hope is for the next hit and relationships are keyed to an altered mental state.

For many its “just pot”, but no one says its “just football”.

Head trauma is head trauma. Football will not soon be outlawed, but marijuana will soon be legal.

On the whole freedom is better that perfect safety, to me anyway. But, on the whole, pretending that one danger is OK because it seems softly benign, and another is not OK because its loud and obviously dangerous is simply shallow and convenient thinking.


September 29, 2015

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the 2015 AIA CT People’s Choice Award For Peacefulness Goes to the Incarnation Chapel:

Bumper Stickered

September 24, 2015


‘Tis the seasons: a fresh group of people are shoved in our faces for recognition, and, presumably, laud.

Politicians?, well, yes – but I speak of the thousands of matriculating college students. They got in, but their parents are full of the pride of admittance. By definition, the vast majority of new freshman are not admitted to “elite” institutions: but, in this new era of no-hurt-feelings every admittance is to “the perfect fit”.

“Fit” requires admission, so any school that rejects your offspring is, by definition, an imperfect fit.

But its not enough to feel that you have succeeded as a parent through some unknown group of college administrators being willing to accept your money for feeding, housing and offering knowledge to your blessed issue: many feel everyone who sees the rear of their car should know it too.

The problem is, once the Harvard sticker goes on, so must the community college. Reducing your public presentation of parenting outcomes to signs on a rear windshield is not benign, its stereotyping.

Academic profiling starts early: GPA, Honors, AP courses – as denominative as varsity, All-Conference, All-State. Soon the lack of parental thrall makes many who attend the “perfect fit” find it does not fit. Over 1/3 of all those matriculated do not graduate from their “perfect fit”.

But bumper stickers are just the cheapest, easiest what to declare specialness. Over $3.2 billion are spent every year on tattoos during a recession that has 94 million working able humans not even looking for work. $3,200,000,000 a year not on education: on putting cartoons on your body. Permanently.


Just like most college admits, for tattoos the ability to spend money is the primary qualification to declare yourself to the world. The message of the declaration is not the central issue: the billions spent are a cry for attention in a world obsessed with merit recognition.

But merit is often not defined by what college you get into, or your job title or even the college where your kid got into. Merit often comes with the loudest voice.

The gnarliest, most inscrutable, most outrageous ink gets noticed, questions are asked: merit obtained. College bumper stickers get noticed too. Admission = merit. Politics follow suit: loud declaration: whether obtaining outrage or “WHOO-HOO!”‘s, confers the fact that the merit of a POV can often just be having one.

Now that the InterWebNets connect all POV’s to everyone all the time, attitudes are not just celebrated or vilified by those you encounter, but to anyone who might find a Face Book post, a list of donations, a video: you are what you profess: painted by a cyber brush from now until the last cockroach croaks.

But in religion and architecture the stylings of profession often mean more than the ideas of politics. Buildings are undeniable, they are even more present than tattoos or bumper stickers. Their perpetrators are judged as harshly as the community college bumper sticker or the PAC Man tattoo.

The present state of play venerates this:


More than this:


For most magazines, schools and design juries, non-Modernist work is the community college bumper sticker: with depth of judgement as shallow, instantaneous and defensive.

As we grind into a campaign between a “short fingered vulgarian” and a “communist” these kinds of thoughtless snap judgements will abound and deafen. The good news its those shrill idiocies are just the call. We have the option of response.

I choose not to play. The one bumper sticker I ever applied to my rear windshield was for our son’s conservatory and that windshield was almost instantly exploded by that son backing our pathetically predictable white Volvo into my home.

That message resonated: reality always trumps proffered attitude. Where our sons went to school has more to do with them, not who is driving our car. Who I want to vote for is literally meaningless to anybody but me. Or should be.

And the buildings I create are about their clients, sites, durability and yes, the beauty they offer to those who can see it.

Like the bumper sticker, or the tattoo, the viewer is invited to respond, but that response has no impact on what’s being seen.


September 22, 2015

home page


Having a place to live has always been a part of being human: but personalized space, safety and comfort are the definition of “Home”. HOWEVER, the criteria for having a safe, comfortable place apart from weather and hubbub has changed dramatically over the centuries.

Architectural historian, cultural Bon Vivant and Pizza Epicure Colin Caplan joins Binnie and Duo in studio to ask YOU what makes Home a Sweet Home: ad how that has changed over the centuries in New England: JOIN US!


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