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Welcome to Saved by Design

March 15, 2018

New Stuff:

In Random Stuff: The Final Frontier

In Home Page: Size Matters

In Left To Myself : Easter

In Not (As) Fat: One Meal A Day

In Finding Home: Building Beauty

In The Rules: Between Rocks & Hard $$$

In Silence In Spring : Astonishing…

In Days ’till Spring : 40 Days

Future History

April 15, 2018


Time is the missing reality in Architecture.

History is as present as gravity in all our lives, and yet both are taken for granted. The moment the paint is dry on a building, it ceases to be a design, or a construction, and becomes a marker in history. Like a newborn, when designs become buildings, hopes and ideas become current events, and immediately are part of history.


In being an architect I am surrounded by those with obsessions of the built kind, My clients are desperate to build, and are willing to risk everything to make what manifests their hopes and dreams. But those intangibles that fill all the vagaries of construction have the most real of consequences in their enactment – chiefly money.

Last week, a hard 2 hour debate with a builder and a client at my table on one of these projects (the plywood on the hillside above) that we are doing pro bono was brutal. The final result is that we are building, the best way we can, and for the right money – but only after a full airing. Hopes became current events, birthing in contest and collaboration.

3 days before that, I was in Oregon, where a couple interviewed me to manifest their dreams, fully reinventing their lives. It involved a very finite amount of money. And perhaps me, a cost. We worked for 24 hours on getting to how a very risky project can be made even more riskier with a remote architect. Maybe better, too. In the end, they saw this is what I do: leverage 40 years and whatever abilities I have been given.

In all these efforts, the goal is to create the next manifestation of history for whatever money is available, this time, here:


We are moving forward.

Yesterday I visited the land in the picture at the top of this piece where the exact same scenario is playing out in Maine. And the day before that I visiting another patch of land in Massachusetts, where opportunity and hope may bond with faith to make a home:


And two days before, in New York, I visited two more places where only hope could overcome unending natural impediments; this time for those who have no place to live: the homeless. Unless we can offer up a design and a budget, the town will simple keep a largely unused parking lot in a town where some simply sleep where they can. Again, this push into the unknown is hope in the present tense.


In between, on the way to those other hopes, I saw another place of the present becoming the future and saw faith being birthed, still amid fear, as costs are never fully known, and the risks great. But so are the rewards:


And before that, in Connecticut I saw the endgame of birthing hope, an emergent home, almost there, but still unknown final costs and a schedule that has no flexibility: a place for children to live is involved:

But all these scenarios played out across 5 states in a week, all of them are flying into history. In a few years (or months in some cases) these dynamic, complicated machines of effort become our simplest need after air, food and love; a place to live. A place in history for everyone involved.

But more, these buildings – all buildings – find a place in the history of each and all of their places, their presence changing everything, often just a little, sometimes a lot.

And the aging in place of these acts of faith and love become part of our culture, our legacy, and hopefully the universal hope of humanity. But building anything is the necessary reality if there is faith. But the faith is broader than any design. The most hopeful act is having children – necessary for human survival, but a dangerous and complicating reality in our lives. But unlike buildings, a baby can be an unintentional act of a moment’s lust.

But architecture is not momentary: It is a long, hard devotion, involving the deepest of commitment, counteracting the primal fear.

Architecture overcomes the risks of faith in the power of love to overcome real fears. But architecture not only addresses gravity (and weather and aesthetics and technology and materials and values) –  architecture is a part of the equally universal reality of history. Architects forget that. I forget that. In the moment of making it is easy to take the made as a given, a done deal, but we should know that history is present in that we do now – in all things, but especially architecture.

The glue of our shared experience bonds us together, that makes for a context to all our desires, impulses, efforts in the rear view mirror of what we have done. Architecture, building things together, is one of the experiences that lives after our passing.

History is not often dealt with in the design of architecture beyond either mimicking “style” or rejecting “styles” that have gone before us. When the goal is to build, there is so much more to overcome in real time, mostly in the future tense to get anything built that perspective is in short supply.

But this week of futures and possibilities, the realities of time and its passage were hard to ignore for me. As hopes become real in construction, the fears become dangers, and those who are in the middle of it cope amid planning. If the sense of time and history were part of the process of design, the inevitable fears may become inspiration.

But the history we devote to when we have children or just make buildings is not our motivation, but history is our consequence.

A week of living into the future on all theee sites now has an ascending event embracing the future of those who are the the next generation of future architects in Italy, Connecticut and California, and the intercontinental, 10,000 miles of effort have one denominator; the humanity of hope in building anything.


It is our present bond, but it is more tangibly our common history. It is time to know that before we design anything.

Road Warrior

April 6, 2018


Bandwidth is often more valuable than comfort. 3 nites 4 days and a red eye allowed me to meet someone from long ago, then another, then 40 architects, showing 138 slides, 2 very good meals and brown alcohol ingestion.

But nothing new there: what was new was Oregon. Not “Ore-i-GONN”, but “Orgun” from the native’s perspective. Two lovely folk have wanted to move to the west coast after lifetime’s of center, east and Midwest. They settled on a fabulous wee place 3 hours south of the home of The Ducks, Eugene. So I went there.

They may need me to help in a place I have only alighted for a book-signing with said Ducks, knowing that they had circumscribed funds, and unbounded enthusiasm.

So, having done all the great good things above and remote freaking over several jobs, designing several, over-focusing on the slideshow, then on a few potential jobs, an employee’s sick spouse, another’s baby presents, involving calls, a video going just a little viral, two Constant Contact blasts, a competition over 3 coasts with a dozen critics another bunch of students, and a potential book, oh, and an article, I went to Port Orford, for 36 hours. Before I then hopefully spend 14 hours on 3 flights to, hopefully get home.

But I am in the airport now.

All the work part was without a trace of buzzkill, and especially inspired by the newly empty-nested couple, with their site equally great:



This scenario happens, thankfully, often. But sometimes things are different.

But the full travel time, up and back, of 7 hours before and after two meetings was different. First, several eventualities meant that I had a silent car with insane levels of technology.
I spent the time in silence, wending down a vaunted set of roads, ultimately along the coast but saw these things: bridges:


There was the most amazing full-on integration of forest agribusiness I can imagine, involving every level of growth, harvest and renewal:
And there was an extreme unification of transportation technology to use bundled logs on carriers, and stacks and trains and returning empty vehicles with stacked carriers upon their backs:



Yes, all true, but what is so surprising here? “Orgun” is a wonderfully wild and natural place. But the collateral realities were very surprising:

Well, the moss, everywhere, especially on the unleaded-out trees was insanely evocative to me:

The dunes, popping up, huge and random amid the huge stands of trees where magically prominent and then gone:

The RV’s were everywhere, all the time:

And the new, unrelenting presence of “Weed” as a fast-food alternate set of franchises, everywhere (amid the down-scale casinos) was a parallel universe:

And, of course, there were some cultural oddments too:


But, in the end, for me, here, it all comes down to connecting: very different to very different, weaving a mosaic of means and methods – that occasionally have aligned purposes that I may be part of:

But this trip, in some ways, was as different as I have experienced. Maybe just in the contrasting images. (All photos at 40-65MPH if from my car…)

The best part is that I may end up coming back, as I may prove useful…


April 1, 2018

I felt deeply happy at Easter.

The decade between being left to myself and taken to Buffalo it was the one time of all times I felt we had a family.

The gluttony played a part. The Make Up Call Holidays of all dysfunctional families meant almost unlimited candy and “stuff” – meaning over the years, a skateboard (really nice), a book, and a toy or two. I was always asleep when the booty was left at the side of my bed, and I never believed the wildly secular imposition of some ethereal and omnipotent rabbit, but was, nonetheless thrilled to have my avarice abundantly rewarded.

But more, the ritual of everyone getting on the dry-cleaned clothing was a focused effort after an hour or more of bed bound joy. I now realize I only had my sister in this effort for a few years until she took her Volkswagen Bug to Los Angeles in the early ‘60’s, and my brother left for college the year before I joined him in Buffalo, where the ritual never happened again.

But in the late 1960’s, before the Nixon Administration, we giggled, scrambled and toddled our way to St. Barnabas Church. By the end of this decade it was one of the few times my father went to church. He had to fully take on the role of Suburban Dad, versus NYC Lawyer.

But that morning, everyone, everywhere was immaculate, coifed and dressed, filling the church to bursting, including zillions of cars and kids.

It was a Rock Concert of Whitelandia in Mid-Century,

The social joy was a huge counterweight to the reality of the looming Monday, but, after church (and more, if not all the rest, of the candy) we drove to Aunt Fanny’s apartment in White Plains for a fully grey leg of lamb, complemented by very bright green mint jelly.

Aunt Fanny was my father’s father’s third wife. Fairly full-bodied, fully grey, and be-speckled, she seemed both ancient and from a very different shore. Then after full gobbling consumption, including one year “Cresent Rolls”  (Baked! Amid the frozen vegetables and instant mashed potatoes) to watch “Barabus” or “The Greatest Story Ever Told” or “Ben Hur”, approaching comatose with layers of food filling our bellies and the room filled with blue smoke catching the glow of the gray tube set to WABC.

The second Service of Easter Dinner must have been arduous for a set of parents ever in the drinking cycle. The forced overcoming of the night before, the hard work of herding freshly caressed kids must have been even more difficult when capped with Aunt Fanny’s table and conversation.

I never really enjoyed Christmas. It was a huge effort, with endless friction, fighting and disappointment. The extreme greed, the dead fear of a fully drunken father in high dungeon, the insanity of the tree creation was, often, terrifying – made worse once my elder siblings returned to visit, often in a defensive crouch.

But Easter was brief, limited, with all the consumption circumscribed to a tight window, then the loagy glut and collapse in the protecting presence of Aunt Fanny, who suppressed all rage from my sodden Dad, simply by conveying the presence of his own passed dad. I now know how fresh that was, as he died the year I was born.

There was virtually no religious presence beyond the Easter Service in our lives that day. The idea of all the layereing of a Triduum and it’s flourishes and appurtenences was so over-the-top for we of the Low Episcopal World that the two hours of Ressurection was more than enough, thank you.

Now I feel it differently, despite my completely Low values, which remain.

The Grace that saved me was there for a few hours, for everyone, one day a year. The gifts of unmerited love, so impossible in our family, were fully present in everyone on those 10 Sundays at Mid-Century.

I have no idea what our children will remember of their Easter’s, they are still processing in their ‘20’s. They both sang, hard, those growing-up Sunday’s. It was a show. Which many loved and still love dearly.

It was a show back then too. Now in black and white, seen through the hazy blue smoke of over 50 years. At least this is here, now,.

And Grace is here, and was there then, too.

40 Days

March 28, 2018

Between Ash & Maundy I write in silence.

It happens to be Lent. I happen to be at Level 23. I most always do this every day anyway, but 90 minutes, every day, is a lot.

Like this morning, while writing, I trigger some unknown algorithm on my new IPad, and some weirdness happens, but stuff gets done. (Sorry for the phantom post, BTW).

Like my childhood, it is a time of screaming. Almost every channel that I usually watch while working out every morning is trying to express a point, to validate its presence with a conviction. It is depressing.

I retreat to Law & Order reruns when they are on, and I have missed those during these 40 days, And replays of NFL games. In these 40 days I have heard no Joe Scarborough or Jack McCoy (or is it McCaughey?) for the 4th Lent.

Four years ago, it was just Holy Week, where I ranted about what none of us know, but what is undeniable.

Next year I wrote a modest set of observations, mostly to myself, about myself in the world.

Last year I tried to be more thoughtful, graphically evocative, and then BANG (or better, POP) a defective vein burst and I missed a day, the Spring Equinox, with the first gap in two years, a planned gap, but not because I was in Yale Hospital, but because I was to be in DC. Which was cancelled. A good thing for those scheduled to fly and meet with me. (THANKYOU, God).

That event framed all the other events since, even though apparently, according to all those doctors, I cured myself – despite 100 hospital hours and $64,000 of insurance. But I take 4 pills, every day. So this morning I am at 120/67BP with 49 HBM.

This 40 day period is, intentionally, of the Flood, the Wilderness, and any other allusion the learned can devine. But Lent is, like, 45 days long, or 44 – because the Sunday’s should not count, but, that does not work out either, as there are 5, and Leap years, and…

This year I initially noted the point guard on F&M’s basketball team was on the verge of an end of his 4 years that may be exceptional to the tiny number that care. It turned out to be mixed. He got the record 2,000 points, the 4th First Team All Conference, the NCAA Sweet 16 (D3). But missed all the national honors that were hoped for. If you cared about numbers you were happy and sad.

Like Lent.

The numbers do not matter, and yet I, we, pay attention to them. Devoutly.

A lot of it does not matter. But I seem to care. So this year, I upped the game and got newsy, spicy and provocative in the writings, and pushed them more, on more platforms, and, Voila, over 5,000 visits this month, maybe 8,000 since I began, and maybe 10,000 all in. A record. Like the F&M basketball player.

Meaning nothing.

But it was good enough that I thought it could have another platform, a printed thing. I am giving a thing with other questioners in NYC on April 27: so a friend copy edits and employees format and send, and I try to give away and sell enough to break even. It turns ipout I made this for you. Thanks.

So these days, on a new bike, I burn 28,000 calories in the 40 days, not sure if I lost a pound, maybe 3, but I stop, for a while, the pattern that was comfortable. Reaction to noise is automatic. Creating silence takes effort. Then creating words is another effort. At a time where absence enhances perception, I fill the pause with stuff.

But in silence.

I suffer all the confusions and rejections that reject the projection of the personal into the Internet. It is, essentially, a profane place. Not the cursing, offensive profane, but the fully godless place, more “God Free By Choice”, that may need these kinds of things most.

I fear the preaching on the net is getting louder and more and is more screamed to those who already believe, and this is all, all media, melding into a mantra, a chant, designed to allow us to feel good about ourselves, where we are, what it means.

But this is not a mantra.

Some readers were not sure I was of right mind in some, took offense at others, even offered to pray for my confused state, I was not saying what they wanted to hear.

I do not know if that is good or bad.

Will I do this next year? Right now my legs are simply full of lactic acid. My brain is full, too, but without insight or incite beyond expression, That is self serving, so I may, thankfully, shut up for a while.


March 27, 2018


I was in a room of architects yesterday.

These are the architects who have done enough, then cared enough, to do enough more to seek a letter: “F” – Fellow. It is important for those who care, but only those who care.

I cared enough to do this task last year, at the request of other architects on the committee I am now on, and now talk where I once listened. They spoke of becoming a Fellow as a way to assess why you are an architect, have done something hard, with enough to show for it, that strangers, who are Fellows, might agree to give you that letter.

That cause and effect struck me.

The desire to be mired in, with the others around you, in the things you care about seeks recognition, but maybe, inevitably, forces you deal with why you sought so much.

When asked a few years ago, I was 60. I had only been in the AIA (which does this) for just the decade that allows you to try. I did not think of it as anything but another competition, which I do enter, and lose more often than win.

But soon I knew, that at 60, and 30 years on my own, and 40 years designing things, maybe I could learn something.

I learned how much I failed in all of this.

Of course I have built, written, done and said enough that I cannot in any postured feigned humility say I am a failure in this one place.

But in gathering the built, spoken, written, done things of my life I saw what I had not done.

It is Holy Week for some of us. A time about thinking about 2,000 years ago. Even the hardest studies know we do not know much, but not much is known about anything then, now. Words, mostly written scores of years later, rituals, but one undeniable fact: a guy was killed by the state.

I am guessing in this week, the laud of his followers totally into him, the hatred of others, then the imprisonment and torture, Jesus had to think about what the hell he had been doing the last few years and what had gone on the 30 years before that.

Break points force us to think. Birth, death, graduation, marriage are not Facebook Selfie Opportunities, they are pivots, just like getting the “F” after an acronym “AIA” that I mostly never use.

So I meet today to look at a place for a homeless housing shelter with people who used me to vet another place closely enough that I spent perhaps $10K getting ready to apply for a grant that they never should have applied for in the first place. I should have forced the issue, before I put the work in 7 years ago, but time was short, I had the staff, and…no. I failed.

But I am with them again.

2,000 years ago most everyone thought the bad place they were in would miraculously flip into the Biblically promised Rapture, when justice made the weak anointed and the powerful punished.

But that did not happen then either.

But as it turned out last year, I did become a Fellow. It has meant nothing to my career. But I did look at my life because of its offer. I now see those around the table with me at the Fellows meeting and see a couple of hundred years trying to make things better where we have control.

Now, in silence, I think of 2,000 years ago when control could not happen for most, because it was absolute for others. But no one can create a Rapture. No one can simply “do” a life either.

Life is given, to all of us, even the Fellows, even Jesus. I forget that life is not a “given”, not a reasonable expectation, or a just reward, like being a Fellow. In the hardest insight of a transactional life, I realize, most every day, that I have earned nothing beyond things like the letter ‘F”.

But I still know I fail, every day, especially in Lent.


March 26, 2018

It is late March. Easter is, without irony, on April Fool’s Day.

And there is a deep frost on our salt marsh.

And things are sprouting.

Are plants subjected to the universal transformative power of the Ressurection? Popping up from a winter’s death despite no thermal facilitation? No. Maybe. I don’t know…

A three-drink discussion ensued this weekend with a physicist. I noted I have never gotten any sense anyone knew anything about the “how’s” of gravity, and it’s fundamental singularity in causing all energy, everywhere.

“That’s not true.”

I was dumbfounded. He was pleased. Big Bang, matter drawing matter, creating black holes, fusion, light, heat, energy?

“You cannot have gravity without all The Four Forces” he grinned, at my ignorance.

Of course, electricity, magnetism are there and he noted without those and the other forces there is no mattter, thus no gravity: my thought was simply wrong.

Of course electricity and magnetism are one force, but there are at least 2 more “strong” and “weak” and maybe ‘Higgs”. So I was wrong in ignorance, but am I wrong to simply collapse observation to reflect my understanding? We live gravity. We stand up, weigh ourselves, and do not see or really deal with anything but the convenience of applied electro-magnetism. And I could not even address the other 2 (or perhaps 3) completely unnoticed forces unless I was with him in the CERN Experiment.


“I guess.” He said.

I see the greening of things and think of the aphoristic truth: when spring comes, things come out of dormancy and grow. Of course they do. When we had a hard frost after they grew last spring it killed stuff. Warm causes growth, cold suppresses it. Of course.

But it is greening, now and it is wicked cold. And has been all spring but for a few days.

Turns out plants sorta have neurology. Kinda. They call for growing or dormancy inside whatever brainlike structure they have. I guess I like the taste of brains in my bread.

Gravity. Spring. Bread. We live in those things. Every day.

But we are not all physicists or plant biology researchers or even priests, rabbi’s or shamans who can declare greater understanding.

So I think plants sprout when it is warm, and gravity is the one force I can see everywhere, all the time.

I guess I am wrong. I guess I should know that electromagnetism, hormone triggers in plant cells and the Ressurection of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ informs all these things.

But I cannot see them.

I know that some know much more that I ever will, but I also know that the meaning of things, real and present things, is not dependent on hormones or gluons, or transfiguration. We can see more the more we know, but the reality of those things is just deeper, not justified.

No physicist sees “strong” and “weak” subatomic forces without extreme effort. Plant brains cannot be dissected and revealed. After a life in church I have no idea that Communion connects me to a dinner 2000 years ago.

Inside baseball is good when you live in it, but unnecessary when I listen to the game on the radio, in bed, at night, seeing the players in my mind.

Would I enjoy the game more? I do not know if I appreciate more in buildings having helped create them over the last 40 years.

But I had to know how to do them. My friend had to know those forces way beyond simple gravity. My cleric friends had to see the deep back ground in the Mystery of Faith.

Mystery, for many, is an insult. Like Fredo in The Godfather we plead our intelligence, apply it, use it, extend it to make sense of sprouting and gravity and The Virgin Birth.

I do not know any of those things. But I know I weigh less now that a year ago. I know the frost in late March freaks me out. I know I am not drinking Christ’s blood, in any way, each Eucharist.

We are on the front lines of humanity. Each of us, all the time. Out generals are too. But the generals want to know how this is happening.

But the “why” in a battle is irrelevant. We are in a mind-absorbing survival task. Knowing how a bullet kills you does not stop it from killing you. But it helps the Medic. But if there only medics there would be no battle. Maybe that is where we are headed.

But now, we are built around gravity, sprouting, and, for me, more than anything else, Faith.

It is hard to defend in places of Higgs Particles and Plant Brains and Eucharist. But it does not matter.

Because Faith makes everything else welcome and good and inevitable.

Especially in Lent. In Silence. In the Frost.

Raptor & Redemption

March 25, 2018


No, that’s not a Raptor up there, it’s a veggie-chomping Bronto-something. But that is Jesus. From somewhere.

But there is a “Jesus As Raptor” thing. Dino-heads on Jesus bodies, posters declaring the dynamic relationship between Jesus and Dinosaurs, even costumes. Some F-bombs, a few popular culture meme manipulations. It’s a thing.

I discovered it confronting Palm Sunday. Today.

The arcania of ancient anything becomes mainstream focus because there isn’t much else. The fully postured grabbing at Old Testament connections in real time then, with now time musings, is such a focus that alternative realities like “Jesus was a Raptor” have extreme, instant, life.

Deeply pious religiosity is a baby seal easily clubbed by those who want God out of any aspect of their lives, if it even exists. So wild humor, profane images, mocking manipulations are pretty funny.

Because we take ourselves too seriously.

Either we see validation in antiquities that have so much backup vaporized by time, or we take truthes of undeniable Faith and joke them to insignificance. All to make us feel OK with, really, not knowing.

I do not know if, or why, or what, it meant that someone rode an ass into a city and folk were so into him they laid down palms for that donkey to walk upon.

It could have been one or a few, or thousands. It could have been staged, or completely spontaneous. It is a really long time ago.

But it does not matter.

Because what did matter was pretty grim. And repeated often back then. Hundreds of “Messiahs” were out there – history has those noted. Thousands were crucified for any reason that fit some kind of Terror Regime to control a captured population.

Nothing to see here, move along.

But one, just one, made some, not many, totally freak out.

It was not just another “savior”, just the latest “Lord of the Flies” Dominance Death by an invader, or, maybe a threat.

Something Happened.

Enough saw and went nuts and others got it. And were now targets too.

No Amway scheme, no heroism of political empowerment, not even 50 virgins to die to. It was a singularity amid danger, death and wildly pompous posturing by established religions, leaders, groups at a nasty time.

It was so complex, so long ago, that it might as well as involved dinosaurs. Why not.

Sure. And that guy riding a donkey into town getting big ups and props and living large, because He Was The Man. Sure. Good.

But to me all this does not matter.

What went down in the next week was not retroactively registered to some sacred script. It was nasty. Gratuitous violence. Hate for no reason beyond fear. Unknowable ins-and-outs. And real danger. All the time.

And the guy was, like a lot of other guys, publicly killed. For no good reason. Just like many, many others.

But something happened. Unlike “Jesus As Raptor” we did not make this up. It was not funny. If it was just another guy it was still the worst part of each of us. Humor and violence are the easy answers to what we fear. Even in Lent.

The fact we do not have to fear is terrifying. At least it is to me.