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Welcome to Saved by Design

August 14, 2018

New Stuff:

In Random Stuff:  Would Jesus Have A Tattoo?

In Home Page: It’s Getting HOT At Home

In Left To Myself : Birth Order

In Not (As) Fat: One Meal A Day

In Finding Home: Road Warrior

In The Rules: Between Rocks & Hard $$$

In Silence In Spring : Astonishing…

In Days ’till Spring : 40 Days

Would Jesus Have A Tattoo?

August 9, 2018

Yes. I think so.

I am a Boomer. Think Old. We, the old, associate tattoos with being drunk (or high). But that is not why I think my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, would have a tattoo if he popped up in the never ending line at Starbucks. He had a good 30 years of being fully human before, well, you know. So it is likely that he would have gotten any amount of body art, no matter what his dad thought of it.

We dads are a judgmental lot. My one criteria for evidence of success in parenting was simple: by age 21 our sons have no drug use or tattoos in their lives. By that criteria, we are validated. (They are 26 and 28)

One of our children is a full Episcopalian, by any hope and measure, for life. But we would plotz if the Episcopal-Shield was seen inked on his shoulder.

We Boomers feel this way because in our world view no one in their right mind would permanently color their skin, especially when you are so young that whole cuisines have yet to be tasted. Tattoos are not a hangover, they do not go away. Especially if they happen in the fog of youth. They are considered with the same depth of thought as a haircut. But hair grows out.

I knew I was going to be an architect when I was 16. I could have gotten a tattoo then, “ARCHITECT” and that would have worked out. Except I think tattoos are, well, not me.

When most tattoos are applied, those tattooed have no life mate, no career, no kids – just interests opportunities, risks. In other words you are young. Botox wears off. Implants can be removed, hair color only colors the hairs it touches. You can lose weight. Change clothes.

But it is very (very) hard to remove a tattoo.

To be young in the 21st century means that nominally defining yourself by being part of a faith is no longer operative.
In New England the question “What church does she go to?” was once part of the interpersonal download, but it’s now a non-issue. Of course she does not go to church.

But she probably has a tattoo, somewhere.

Getting inked is now as much a part of life as any visible expression of yourself. Just like religion used to be. Harris Interactive says that 50% of those under 30 (and over 18) have tattoos – roughly the same percentage who never, ever, attend church (according to Gallup).

In one generation going to church is less expected than having a tattoo.

Tattoos cost a lot, take time, even pain. They express “This is me” and “I am not you.”

But in a place where faith in anything larger than your immediate life is increasingly lame, tattoos manifest and project that the tattooed have an obvious and “out” faith in their control.

“I can do this.” “This is me.” “So cool.”

All me, all the time: and everyone sees that declaration, or at least your intimates.

Getting tatts is a devotional act. You are devoted to you. That time, money, pain is all in the name of expressing yourself. Nothing wrong with that. If I did not exercise 1.5 hours 6.7 times a week I could use that 10 hours a week to feed the homeless, but I know working out makes my life better, longer.

However I know, that no matter much I work out that in the end I do not control much, because God is the bottom line, not me. It’s a buzz kill for those who are living in the self-empowerment world.

The thrill of control has seen a unique explosion in a decade of popularized tattooing. Body art probably offers the highest amount of expression for your investment of time and money. Tatts offer more change per dollar than any other cosmetic reality of hair, clothes, even weight. I know those who lift weights not to gain strength but to look like they lift weights.

My guess is that if you really felt you had complete control you would not be getting tattoos. But we want what getting ink offers: evidence of our capability to determine at least that part of our destiny.

But a great career, sex, hair, pecs are only great in the moment others perceive them, just like tatts, in the end, alone, in bed, the car, the hospital no one is seeing your tattoo. I want great hair, but my bald spot grows every day.

No matter who you are, no matter your glory, your grossness, your confusion, whether aethiest or evangelist, it is pretty clear that Jesus was just like the rest of us, but wait, no – he wasn’t. Three years of making the revelation that there is meaning beyond this life changed many lives.

But for 30 years Jesus didn’t know there was more to life than tattoos, and other attempts to define and control a life that was, like all other lives, often disappointing, if not depressing. Like so many of his generation if he was around now, my guess is he would be inked. I just wonder what the tatt would express


Birth Order

August 7, 2018



I was at a burial this week.

There were close to 100 people there, in remote northern New York State, after a full blown service 2 months ago in Buffalo. There were 400 people there. and perhaps in both places a total of 20 or 30 public rembrances, few repetitive, none self-serving.

The children of the deceased – the first born, second and youngest were central. All wildly different, but all united in the deepest of love for a parent who set his approach to them by knowing who they were, but more, knowing who he was.

I am a remote intimate of this family, the talking family, caught between the polar ends on the same planet of two white, priviledged, educated, healthy Mid-century Families.

The common thread of all the 20-odd individuals who spoke (including me) was that this passed beloved took time to seek out all of them (everyone) to listen to them. It was as if he fed on their place in life and was fully engaged in his own so well. His body lasted 90+ years, sustained only because of a focus and regime that bathed in this love every day.

My mother would have been 104 today.

Our family never talked, in collection or serially. There was never any time taken, by me or anyone else, to simply say “How are you doing?” Whether that lack of focus was caused by genetics or circumstance I cannot say, because there is circumstance, in every life.

I was the youngest, way late in 1955, when my mother was 41, my father 45.

Both families started with a miracle daughter. The talking family was told that the mother could never have children, my mother unnecssarily lost her first born to a doctor distracted by a golf game (the child strangled in the late birthing by his umbilical chord).

So the talking family’s first birth, the same year as I was born, was their “gem” it would be safe to say that I was the only child who was not, in some ways, problematic for my parents. I have long thought that was because I shied away from their fully distracted unhappy lives because I was the youngest, and saw the unending anger and acting out among them and their other children.

But my parents’ firstborn, born 10 years before me, was also redemptive grace after a tragedy a year before.

Then two boys. For both families.

It would be hard to envision an outlook that, after tragedy and dashed expectations, that a child could be viewed as anything but a gift.

The talking family rushed to that love and had 2 more within 5 years.

My parents worshipped my sister for 5 years, then had my brother, then found a house, then, I do not know. Then me five years after my brother. Lack of knowledge leaves only guess work. Why had my mother had a fourth child, third living, me at her age of 41, when she only started after 30, having been married for a decade?

A party at the advent of our first born saw my mother roundly regail in full wine freedom, “Girls, if I was born in this time, I never would have had children.”

So one family saw the beauty in the very distinctions between who they had made become 3 happy adults each with their own children and spouses. Our birth order meant the eldest could never find what my parents wanted in her, so she made her own place, without children, with someone who loved her as my parents had for her first few years. The next, middle child felt even less fit with what somehow his parents determined was his success, which was the performance that he never offered them. He tried marriage twice, any number of career efforts, then became my sister, then, well, I am pretty sure ended her life last year.

After I was removed to Buffalo in 1969, I soon found the love of the talking family, first the mother at 15, then the father at 16, and in an indirect way, at with zero expectations, but washed in repeating gratitude, I have had near 50 years of friendship of their miracle daughter – itself a miracle, for me, long after birth.

Of course all those talked about had issues. Tricky marriages, health, child dangers, missed opportunities, failed attempts. But the love that was there for them lives on, and extends in death, so eloquently, silently there at the funerals.

Comparisons are shallow, self-congratulatory, even dishonest, but I cannot help it. My parents died much younger than the talking family elders, had few folks to reconnect with at death, and had nothing but distant, very distant, memories to share, at their deaths. The only words at both my parents’ funerals spoken by any child was by their middle son, at our father’s funeral, who wove a tale that was of another man, not our father, that my mother could never understand.

I understand now that lives are led by love, the embrace or lack of it. My lack of love from my family has led me to do some things, that lack made the first born lock into safety, and made the middle child try anything, everything to find the love that was not there.

That love filled the places of the talking family’s funerals. Unpretentious, unjustified, just caring, deeply, beyond safety and change, because well, you loved them, they loved you. Of course.


August 4, 2018

This is an angry time.

There is outrage all around.

There is no defending either the cause of the anger or the level of self-righteousness. But we have crossed over into aesthetics.

The insane combover of remnant hair. The cartoon skin colors, orange with white around the eyes, a Bizzarro Racoon.

Every public figure is lampooned, and our president has been a caricature for over 30 years. His lacquered brass visuals proclaim “GOLD”, but the content is orange. Everything begins and ends in the caricature.

But the hate is explosive, in every way. Screaming crowds giving the finger to anyone not in their worldview. Commentators of any venue are in high dungeon, and are officially seen as “enemies” by anyone on any side. The language is extreme. The attitudes is worse.

Humans are loathed, written off, reviled, even wished by the loathing to be harmed, even ended.

When we are this outraged, we stop listening, seeing, thinking. We hate. It is easiest to react rather than think, let alone have a sense of humor. Laughing is increasingly found in derision, absolute rejection.

There is rage, towards any view, either way. Justification is not the issue, but superficial anger is not pretty.

And that’s the point.

A shill, the orange man’s mouthpiece, like every mouthpiece, is ridiculed. But her visuals become part of the argument.

I used to be 1/3 larger than I am now.

I know as I was viewed differently then, because I am different now.

The hair, the orange, even the words have been screaming at us for 30 years, we used to laugh. Now we cringe and hate. OK, it is different. Orange is the new President. But the shill, just like me, now, is a little fat.

“I hate her.” Is said to me with honest disdain. What she says has all the sensitivity and thoughtfulness and truth of every one of her predecessors.

But she’s, well, fat. And not a good look. And…

We hate.

Staring right at everyone is a national, rational, organized, all powerful way to express without anger, disdain, caricature – an election in a few months.

All of us can end our frustration.

It’s just that we may not get what we want. And the orange and the fat and our rage will still be there.

But those affects – skin dye, fat cells, manipulated hair can go away and leave all those words, beliefs, ‘tudes, Would that change ours?

I do not think so. We are just beyond a presidency of perhaps the handsomest human since JFK as the focal point of all of us. I think those very handsome men, of great face and weight, were reviled in their time in office. But many loathed Barack Obama for aesthetics – he was black.

But JFK was murdered for, why?

He was murdered because of hate.

Aesthetics, my fat, the shill’s visage, the orange or brown skin – all those surfaces, demean the truths of ideas and feed to explosion the emotions that kill thought, humor, understanding.

But worse, they betray faith. I know that every human, even the hated, is a human. I know we are here because of an inexplicable chain of incalculable odds and insane biological complexity. I cannot see how anything but what I do not understand allowed this complexity to happen.

And all those haters are me: they are not different from me in much except in their sometimes insane ideas. And I can hate those.

But I should not hate aesthetics.

Architecture Love

July 29, 2018


It’s hard to believe that Finnish architect Eero Saarinen died on the operating table at the age of 51 in 1961. Only four years before he passed in Michigan he saw the completion of the Ingalls Hockey Rink at Yale University.

The tragedy of his early loss is only slightly mitigated by the gift of being a great architect’s son who came into his practice and sent it to stratospheric heights of built expression in the decade Eero outlived his dad, Eliel Saarinen. The St. Louis Arch, the TWA Terminal at JFK Airport in New York, and neighboring Morse and Stiles Colleges at Yale are triumphs of mind and craft, but, to me, the dead simple architectural realization of Ingalls Rink has a power and exhilaration that transcend just about anything I have experienced – but especially with the crisp explosion of hockey within it its embrace.


I honestly am not thrilled with hockey. It is a blur of continuous action, involving arcane rules and the unnatural act of skating. Watching it on television is virtual torture. Watching it in person is always fun, but not really thrilling. And I do not really root for Yale, as I went to a trade school in upstate New York.

But, to me, hockey, any hockey, is unalloyed raw beauty at The Yale Whale.

The hug of the space, the gently focused eyes and bodies canted in and viewing down and across seem melded to the huge concrete spine, draped roof raw wood skin and stretched wire tendons. Ingall’s rink is celebration outside and in: fully three dimensional in a biophilic mass and space that literally thrills me – for the last 40 years.


It is July. Hockey is far, far away in the steamy heat. But that distant reality makes the memory of the Whale’s aesthetic hug even more dear in its temporary absence. And Yale loves it too. An extraordinary renovation by Saarinen’s apprentice, Kevin Roche, a decade ago added amenity and service capacity for teams and spectators with zero negative impact, because, at great cost, much was unseen, buried.

It is rare that anything made by humans is timeless. So far, this space is. This place defies aesthetic categorization because it has a life that seems as fresh as a forecheck and as timeless as a crisp winter night. Trivializing Ingalls Rink by giving it the name tag of “Modern” is simply a cheap rationalization for is glowing presence. To me, its architecture is fully realized and expressed, with no evident cliche’s or even disappointing fudges of its flowing form and space.

Of course the 1957 experiments of roofing, heating and cooling space have had to be “fixed” over time: but in the cause of conspiring life into the animated shapes and technologies, the energy and joy of the building is undimmed.

But more: the marriage of building and function is, to me, magic. I design stuff everyday, and “fit” is fraught with compromise. Often the realities of actually constructing something – the means and methods and existing regulations and constraints – can blunt the potency of any vision that might be realized. But not here.

If anything, the use of flowing gamesmanship, the kinesthetics of hockey are in a giddy dance with The Whale. The filling up with human movement, feasted upon by the building’s form and cavity, seems like a celebration of activity and life during games.

We forget that this simple beauty is the hardest to create: but we have it here: Saarinen’s Whale is a gift.


It’s Getting HOT At Home

July 23, 2018


Climate Change has microclimatic origins, but microclimate consequences: and the once place where everyone wants to control their environment is when they are at home. Weather in New England is varied, but its history has been volatile – Boston Harbor used to freeze over, there have been unending record high temperatures, and hurricanes overwhelm with zero predictability.

This leaves our most precious and most vulnerable structures, our homes, facing a changing future. How do we address this new reality? Design, law, technology, even our culture responds in the homes we build, and change, and sometimes, now, remove…

Joining us in studio is Joe MacDougald, Professor-in-Residence and the Executive Director of Center for Energy and Environmental Law at the UCONN Law School. Joe is also a board member and Director of Applied Research of CIRCA, the Connecticut Institute for Resilience and Climate Adaptation, where he focuses on Sea level Rise and it’s effect on Connecticut. Joe was a longtime public office holder in Madison Connecticut, including a selectman during both Hurricanes Irene and Sandy.

We will call one of the great advocates of environmentally sensitive architectural design for the last 40 years, architect and author Donald Watson, a Fellow in the AIA, but more a prolific writer, educator and designer of buildings. often homes, that are designed to use the environment and protect their owners from our changing climate. Don Watson has won dozens of awards, and been a consultant in environmentally sensitive design on many buildings all over the world. He has been the Dean at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute’s School of Architecture, taught at Yale, and written any number of publications and books, including “Climatic Building Design” published by McGraw-Hill, and most lately contributed to an encyclopedia of sustainability, “Bioclimatic Design”.

After that, we will talk to Sara C. Bronin, another UConn Law professor focusing on environmental, land use, and energy law. Outside the classroom, she has tackled climate change from several angles: as a development strategist, working for super-green projects like 360 State Street in New Haven; as the chair of the City of Hartford’s Planning & Zoning Commission, overseeing award-winning, pro-environment changes to the zoning code; and as the leader of the Climate Stewardship Initiative, which adopted Hartford’s first Climate Action Plan. She also chairs the Connecticut Trust for Historic Preservation, which espouses the mantra that “the greenest building is one already built.”

Our homes are feeling the heat: but they are just the most obvious victims of world wide change brought to our doorstep.


July 22, 2018

Recent Work

 Getting Done in Westchester

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.



In Mockingbird: The Undeserved Vacation: The New Sabbath

In Mockingbird: Bedside and the Lord’s Prayer

In Common Edge: In the Era of Artificial Intelligence, Will Architecture Become Artisanal?

In Mockingbird: The Gift of Profanity

In Common Edge: An Architect’s Devotion and Determination is Often a Project’s Make or Break Factor

In Mockingbird: Violence & Faith

In Mockingbird: …Mistakes Were Made…

In Common Edge: What a New Botox Commercial Says About the Public’s Perception of Architecture

In Common Edge: Architecture Ignores History at its Own Peril

In Common Edge: Why Homes are the Original Architecture

In Mockingbird: A Letter of Recommendation

In Mockingbird: Nothing Means as Much

In Common Edge: Michelangelo’s Lesson: Specialization in Architecture is Not the Only Way



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