Skip to content

Welcome to Saved by Design

November 23, 2022

New Stuff:

In A Miracle Of Coincidence: “It is finished.”

In A Year In Lent: Only Consistency Allows Change

In Random StuffLeaves Are Lives

In Home Page: Gendered Home?

In Absence: Easters

In Left To Myself: A Decade In Memory

In Emily’s Days: Coda

In Not (As) Fat: One Meal A Day

In Finding Home: Occupation Preoccupation

In The Rules: 1) Plan. 2) Section. 3) Elevation

In Silence In SpringAstonishing

In Days ’till Spring: “Karening”

Pearl Harbor

December 7, 2022

The morning of December 7 saw the instant existential catastrophe of World War end that life of control and entitlement. George had graciously retired as a lieutenant from his Army ROTC commission in 1940, so he immediately sought to escape the draft and rightfully renew that commission as an officer.  

When the Army said “No.” to his request for a renewed commission, my father was desperate. He knew that he was not meant to die with the young volunteers and draftees on a beachhead somewhere. forty-five yearslater, my mother recounted that my father went a little nuts – shaking and in a cold sweat – chain smoking desperate and searching for an option. Pushing his obvious ability and with the connections of a white, male, Ivy lawyer the Navy gave him a commission in their Intelligence Officer Corps. He spent a year training and then two combat zone tours on aircraft carriers – one sunk by the Japanese after he left.

The bomb that went down the USS Arizona’s smokestack blew up a soon-to-be 32-year-old’s life. The catastrophic break in the surety of an entitled future of confident employment, social standing and personal identity never healed for my parents. I think that break simply reopened the wounds of the loss of my father’s mother. That first disaster was with him, fully out of his control.

After a rough return, my father ultimately found partnership in a boutique Wall Street firm, almost a decade later, and life was not the same, ever. My parents were not alone – sixteen million soldiers came home with my father. Post Traumatic Stress Disorderhas officially been a diagnosis since 1980 – about thirty-five years too late for my father’s generation.Absent diagnosis, the damaged sought therapy: it was called Suburbia. You could mow your lawn. Your wife could have dinner waiting. You made money in a separate, distinct world you understood. You could define and control your life up there, in the suburbs, in a world made for you, by you. 

But therapy only works if you know you need it.

After the war, everything was “fine” for my mother and father. Despite a health issue or two, then two children, they went north, then had another child( me) and had settled into a home that was lovely and worth the labors of restoration. They joined a Country Club. They found a church. Then private schools for their kids. My father learned to barbecue.

But although happiness was assumed, it did not come. Despite the presumed rightness of the life after the War, there was no therapy in suburbia for my parents. The golf course at the club was abandoned. The church was part of a social framework, but any faith in anything beyond their coping was incidental. There was medication in drinking, calming in smoking, and expression of brokenness in screaming anger after the second 4 or 6 ounces of booze.

Like mowing the lawn, the children offered no solace for the wounds of a complicated life: in fact, they offered a vehicle for the projection of life’s broken beginnings turning damage into anger and remorse.

We children could not understand why we were so wrong, perpetually. My siblings were declared“failures” and I watched. No amount of black and white TV or ballroom dance lessons could render his children what my father hoped for: we were not better versions of him. Those disappointments became triggers for his anger, and coping by his wife, damaging the growing minds of children in ways that take lifetimes to fully realize.

News

November 23, 2022

READ:

In ArchDaily: “New Practices” in Architecture are Just an Evolution

In CT Insider: Column: Building booms create more ugly homes

In Mockingbird: Suburban Jesus

In CommonEdge: Building Busts Increase the Value of Architectural Beauty

In ArchDaily: Nameless Buildings Affect Us

In CT Insider: Column: Technology has changed how we buy our homes

In Mockingbird: When Words Defy Death

In CommonEdge: Zombie Projects Come Alive in a Real Estate Boom

In ArchDaily: Is Good Architecture Synonymous with Beauty?

In Mockingbird: The Impossibility of Zen

In CT Insider: Column: Demolish or renovate, what to do when architecture fails

In CommonEdge: Architecture Has Its Own Cultural Appropriation Problem

In Mockingbird: Why Am I So? Why Am I Thus?

In ArchDaily: Technology Isn’t Trend, It’s Timeless

In CommonEdge: The Accidental Making of an Architect

In CT Insider: What to know before applying to architecture school

In ArchDaily: New York’s Tower of Babel

In Mockingbird: The Prodigal Architect

In CT Insider: Column: Rethinking CT’s empty movie theaters, churches and malls

In ArchDaily: Democratizing Architecture vs. Aesthetic Apartheid Architecture

                                                                                                            

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

                                                                                                             

THANKSHOME

November 17, 2022

ON THANKSGIVING! NOON! WPKN-FM 89.5fm & Streaming WPKN.ORG

Two things happen on Thanksgiving before we eat: we either go to the dinner table wherever it may be, or we make dinner. Some people make dinner for others, all the time, every day. Those who make food for others join us today to talk about their Thanksgivings.

Kitchens are in every place we live. We use them to follow recipes, toast our bread, warm our soup, microwave our frozen foods and leftovers, even make special meals like Thanksgiving. When we make food we use our kitchens we are manifesting what our homes are – the nurturing, protecting, refuge where we also sleep and bath and thing about the rest of the world.

But at at Thanksgiving many have the world come to their kitchen. Right now, many hearing this show are elbow deep in stuffing, chopping, peeling, and, well, cooking, in those kitchens we often take for granted.

Some use kitchens to earn a living. Their workweek is being at the place where others come to eat. Their lives are as hosts – but now, they are like the rest of us: either cooking or going to Thanksgiving. Today Home Page talks to those who center both professional and domestic lives on their kitchens – the professional hosts on they day when anyone can be a host:

Stefanie Lesnik created Field House Farm in Madison Connecticut, where groups come into her kitchen to be with her and eat the produce she grows. Michael Eagan helps run Zinc in New Haven, a restaurant that has been a shining light for the weary diner. Danielle Ginnetti is an owner of 116 Crown, also in New Haven, where her husband is the chef and the bar is a laboratory of exquisite alcohol. Sandy Gervais has run The Elm City Club in New Haven for over 30 years, welcoming sometimes hundreds of people to great gatherings of celebration. And Joel Gargano and his wife Lani created Grano Arso in Chester, and is expanding their hosting to Chester and now New Haven.

Humans

November 13, 2022

We see the world.

But we really see us seeing the world.

The dancing dots we see from the stands of a stadium, or on the glow of a screen are just that: a depiction of something. But if you are with those dots, it is a different world.

What is clear as a dance of dots becomes confusing in humanity. We know what we know, and it is reality – until we know that that was one reality, not reality.

I stand twenty feet from a man, staring at a wobbling ball coming to him in the afternoon sun. His face is literally glowing in the light, his eyes wide, glinting: he is leaping to catch the ball – perfectly, and runs with it.

But for others “Yale makes the interception!” It was a human, in a moment, in the sun, in full focusing – living what his 20 years allowed him to do. Because I could see that.

Yesterday, I went to a place where six years of effort became a reality – that reality will take another six months to become a building, then a home, then a family, then part of our humanity.

I read a piece that the elections we just had could not have been more unclear in their outcome, but the largest picture was that those voting had far more voting for the losers in the outcome. Again. And the results will run away from the realities of all the humans who voted, to the results historians describe.

A building goes up, in a plague, first in a dead, then overwhelming economy, it is beautiful and every person involved in its creation is beyond stressed because its cost, its timetable, its reality is very hard on everyone involved. But to the rest of humanity it is beautiful.

What we do is not who we are.

Our outcomes are not our humanity.

We devote, and hope. Unless those uniquely human conditions have a reality to those living with their outcomes, then what all the other humans perceive – our devotion, our hoping – is simply not there. The eyes of that young man were not there this afternoon, but for the very few who could see them. But they made the event happen, and most could not see it.

We control these outcomes, sometimes. But ultimately, we do not. I am an architect, with about 1,000 things in the world that I am judged by. I have written far more pieces than built things, pieces that have been seen (over 40 years) by over a million people. They can see something beyond the illustrations in what I write, but most of those 1,000 things will live far after my death. Which I cannot control.

We cannot control our death. We cannot control what people see of us beyond making the things that they see. Like that “interception”. Like the little home that will be a family after 6 years of effort, and a year of making. Like our families.

We do not control time either. We are defined by it, but it does not define us. A brief time can create Eero Saarinen, whose 50-few years created things that impact infinitely more than my 67 and counting.

Better? Worse? We want to define and control those too. Yale won their game, and that interception now has a history like a Saarinen building. My little home will have no history like that, My life may not, either.

But a son just started a drive this early AM where he will, again, listen to (and save many) lives. No interceptions before 10’s of thousands, No buildings in the flow of millions of lives. Just the lives of humans, a few making the things we all find comfort in controlling.

When we really, in the end, control nothing.

The Question

November 10, 2022

We just had an election where 15% of us thought that the choice not to have children was said to be crucial in their lives, but that decision was deemed to be crucial to 30% when they voted. We care about having, or not having, babies. Those who are fully invested in social protection are also personally committed to freedom for themselves. Those who center their lives on freedom also want to protect children that we create.

There is nothing inconsistent in seeking protection and freedom simultaneously. It just gets complicated.

I just read a long screed about a break up that was initiated by one not wanting children and the other basing their life on children. My siblings spent their lives fully running away from procreating. We had a lot of pain growing up, and they were terrified that they could convey that pain to anyone else.

Was I selfless in basing my future on having children, or was I fully self-centered? Yes. I believe that God is with me, but, for me, God in form of another me, Jesus, makes the infinite personal. Like having, or not having a baby.

This is not about birth, many infants need humans to love them, and adults devote their lives to babies, of their birth or not. This is about the binary: is life by and with me or is life a universality? Well, it is both, the problem is that some, most, think life is exclusively either and that either way is The Way.

We do not determine The Way, we try to make our way, and that means that extending our life through others, sacrificially beyond simple caring but unto death, is our reach to universality, beyond ourselves. Some are in the same place with faith, finding the fully inscrutable part of who we are – not worked up to, earned, even understood – God simply is undeniable. Others do not embrace the inscrutable, they want empowering understanding,

Babies are at the enter of my life. Simultaneously others want others to the them. So abortion is deemed a murderous hideosity or a sacred right. So we have elections. But elections only reflect, then direct. And in every election some are completely rejected. The rejected believe what they voted for.

There are those who fully dismiss going beyond control of their own lives and those who think there is no living without losing control. Both are true, because humans are both. I honestly think my siblings were damaged enough that any children they bore would be damaged by their own upbringing. As my father was. As I was.

Two out of three of my parents’ children ended their pain by not extending it. I could not imagine not extending my life beyond that pain. Our 20 years of full emersion of parenting is a decade passed, and two adults are in the world, one in a profession that can judge human damage and pain, and says my wife and I did no harm. In fact loved fully.

Am I more, better, even fulfilled because children are central? For me, to me, I hope so – but for others, that place is completely out of my judgment. Rational analysis would conclude that my parents should not have had children, or even stayed married at some point. But they did, and they did.

And there’s rage against preventing birth while others are in complete dedication to the freedom to walk away from having children. If some dedicate to God by not marrying, let alone having children, then this is not spiritual, this is just human.

We are the only species that willfully dissociate sex from birth, because we seem to be the only ones that have made the connection. The Garden of Eden was found in someone, sometime, whether by God’s hand or a long day with little water, but the revelation of revelation is no less real.

We eat the apple every day, and regret it, often.

Living: Gross or Net?

October 30, 2022

It occurred to me that I have the greatest income of all of our immediate friends. Gross. The net income is terrifying, lower than most of those who work for me, lower than any of my private clients, and all of my friends who work.

Why?

Of course I am a fully incompetent business person. Well, I have never missed a payroll, laid off an employee because there wasn’t enough work (because there always has been). We have had perhaps 20 unhappy clients out of the 1,400 we have worked with and 1,000 built things. I own the office we work in. I have never spent a penny on advertising, but given hundreds of thousands of dollars in donations

But payroll is often a PTSD experience. Some regular bills wait a month. And I often do not contribute my fair share of money to our family finances.

Why?

It would be easy to blame the pro bono work that starts about 20-30% of the work in our office, and has about half of those projects remain unpaid. It would be easy to blame the extra time spent on things that have a fixed fee, and thus we got into deficit spending. Or the fact that I teach and write, activities that pay very little if anything at all. All true.

But the reason is simpler than that.

Like every other human, I have been given just about everything. Of course I learned the tools of life, but the abilities I have are not those acquired skills. So I use the gifts I did not earn for those who need it whether they can pay or not simply because I am able.

This is the time of life when those we love are leaving us. Not many, but sadly. Their loss screams that the time we have is what we have been given, not what we earn or deserve, either.

So my life is net. I do and things happen, there is no tide of entitled reward. There are no just desserts, there is only the reality that life is never a gross transaction, What we have is only realized by our willingness to use it. We control very little, perhaps only having the option to see, or not see, what is obvious: God.

That is a net realization amid the screaming, gross noise we must deal with every day. I cannot claim to have chosen this life: it is what I have been given to do. In work, 35 years down, the rest to come.

Thanksgiving

October 28, 2022

(After endless editing)

Thanksgiving is based on a sketchy recounting of a harvest feast over four hundred years ago and Christmas is set to the invented birthdate of Jesus (it is probably in April), so Thanksgiving and Christmas became the secular juggernaut of Christian marketing. 

On those Holiday Dinners our family jumped into the cultural meat grinder. My mother defrosted “The Butterball” (turkey), got the Pepperidge Farm stuffing in its blue and white plastic bag, the Ocean Spray Cranberry Jelly, the best variety of green peas – either frozen Green Giant or canned “Lesueur, prepared the Pillsbury Instant Mashed Potatoes (we made a canyon in their peak for the gravy) and, maybe, if we were lucky, the “Crescent Roll” tubes were supplied – ready to be popped, split, rolled and baked and then slathered in margarine.

She bought an A&P frozen Pumpkin pie to bake and the Cool Whip to cover it in, and, of course, watercress and its dressing made with its Shake in the Server” Good Seasons Salad Dressing Carafe with its packet of “herbs and spices.” Whether Thanksgiving or Christmas my mother spent the morning assembling and heating – after a long week of washing, starching and ironing all the linens. Before this, hours were spent polishing all the silverware and candlesticks with a foul-smelling paste all only used in these High Holy Days.

There were new technological adventures of the season as well – like the Sunbeam Electric Carving knife (I still have scars on two fingers on my left hand from a duel between my 8-year-old self and my 13yearold brother). There was the electrically heated cloth bag that set into a wicker basket to warm, continuously, the said Pillsbury Crescent Rolls. We even got an automatic dishwasher one year.

The other roles were also heated. There was resentment over doing everything from my mother, outrage that paying for everything was not enough by my father, and endless drinking, after 5, this time of year using a fine red wine” after a cocktail or two.

The children were to help and be silent. We did that. My sister was back from high school in the later years, Aunt Fanny was picked up and dropped off at Christmas. 

The food was always “perfect”, the clothing always chafed. I could eat till stuffed that day without fear or guilt or being “outed” as the “Husky” boy whose weight my mother was forced to deal with at DePinnas Department Store where she bought my clothes.

Gendered Home?

October 24, 2022

THURSDAY OCTOBER 27th! LIVE! Noon! 89.5FM or wpkn.org Streaming

Gender is part of life. Humans try to define it, control it, liberate it, or simply understand it. Every human’s gender is with each of us every day. Every part of every life has our gender along for the ride. We design how we dress, cook, garden, decorate, and simply express ourselves – who we are is essential in what we do.

And we design buildings. And homes are our most essential, intimate and universal building. How we create any building is neither male or female, it is human – uniquely so. This century has seen gender as part of our common complexity – the oxymoron of the universally idiosyncratic complexity.

There was a time when men dominated some professions, women others. The perception was that what we did was defined by our gender – whether as a nurse or as a banker. Architecture was a closed-loop male construct, until the reality of our humanity revealed that prejudice as simply incorrect. The mechanical/social/righteous rectifications  of the historic insanity of male-centric architecture are completely examined: so HOME PAGE will talk about the elemental nature of how humans create:

Are there differences in how genders design? 

We will have people on HOME PAGE who have been thinking about design their entire lives, and how this generation of widening perception of who each of us is, personally and culturally is now a moving target. Jason Bischoff-Wurstle has addressed our culture and its evolution as the designer of over 50 exhibitions at the New Haven Museum – including the changing way we look at ourselves. Eeva-Llisa Pelkonen, author, educator, theorist at the Yale School of Architecture writes about the nature of design and teaches it daily. Andrea Swartz is a professor and associate dean at the College of Architecture and Planning at Ball State University and teaches as well as being a licensed architect, making furniture, photographs and buildings.

Leaves Are Lives

October 19, 2022

Metaphors are lazy, often hideous.

But twice a year, for a few weeks the world becomes a metaphor in New England.

First, the visually dead winter, occupied by scurrying humans and frigid birds, breaks its mortality to be resurrected to a life that has largely been forgotten. Otherwise known as spring, this vitality colors the world in one explosive green tide, rising up to the tree tops.

Somehow the humans become freshly aware and joyful, where drudge and coping consumed lives that were overwhelmed in warming and lighting up the dark. We are freshly nourished by the same world that was without joy a week or three before the tide started to come in.

But now, these weeks, the darkening of our lives in mornings that seem without joy, now have a brief explosion of life in death, here in this latitude – the leaves do not go dark – they explode into the colors we used to see only in flowers, that are no more in the weeks of dimming light.

The death of the leaves has life beyond the greening of spring, but briefly, and knowing its mortality. It is the death of life in full joyous release. It is the confusion of life inside of bark, without evidence of its vitality while death causes insane beauty, perhaps because of its brevity.

So many die every day – more when those who see that death are closer to it. The joy of life, often overwhelmed by the din of doing becomes sacred when it sees its end. The magic of color exploding the death of leaves is the metaphor I am loathe to see: revealing  death in the ecstasy of change.

This seems the opposite of our own passing. No one thinks their death reveals and celebrates all the colors of life we have under our skin, but the trees live that, because there is life after the leaves leave.

So the question is called in a few days.

Trees will be bare soon, as alive as they were when green and growing, and living the death of what we see is a cacophony of color. Will I see it? Or will I, once again just see the dimming of the light, not seeing the life under the bark.

We, the humans are the only beings who see beyond the now. We respond like the frozen and starving birds, or the engorging mammals awakened at spring, but we also hope based on our fully insufficient understanding that promises that life is a cycle, not a story.

These metaphors are often all we have. Whether it’s calling a tiny bit of energy/matter the “God Particle”, or creating Christmas months before the birth of Jesus, because the light is returning to a blackening world.

God must laugh.