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Welcome to Saved by Design

September 12, 2017

New Stuff:

In Random Stuff: I wish I knew what it meant…

In Home Page: the Other Home – a Podcast

In Left To Myself : Choices

In Not (As) Fat: One Meal A Day

In Finding Home: The Next Thing…

In The Rules: Between Rocks & Hard $$$

In Silence In Spring : Astonishing…

Building Beauty

September 13, 2017

We all know what we love. We feel it.

Usually, humans try to understand their feelings, not create them.

“Overthinking”is a great term that describes the “ought” in all of us. I should like opera – I love music, and one son is completely devoted to it, I have tried, but alas, I just find it tediously overblown. For me.

In architecture, kids come to school knowing that they want to make beauty, but over time they begin to know they should be able to define, render and defend beauty: not just feel it. You could say that one of the central purposes of all education is to separate us from our feelings so that we can understand. In school, the motivations and mechanisms are limited to the teachers’ comfort zone: and that is mostly not based in building. If you give building to teaching with words, drawings, models, clicking the keyboard you disengage that act of creating from what you should be doing in architecture: building beauty.

Traditionally in school you are feeding your mind, in the bubble of your brain you are the captain of your thoughts – but you are crippled in your creations by the media, the method as defined by your teachers.

I hate chemistry, but school forced me to deal with it, despite my hate. And I loved architecture and, not surprisingly in school grew to defend what I loved. I did not defend pretense, or Canon, or any theory of aesthetics – I grew to know that fit, and surprise and harmonics weave with movement, use, weather, materials – it was not an easy sell for some professors who built precious little, but taught full time for decades.

Now I have built full time for decades, dealt with over 1,000 sites, clients, scenarios. It’s time to share that, and it’s time the rest of the world in the tightly controlled place of teaching architectural design.

In the fine arts studio world, history is often something that is just a contrast to innovation, not a necessary allusion because we are in our time, on our terms. Size is not important as is scale, as in school we build almost nothing. Materials are texture, contrast, tone, lustre – none have the quality in school you learn by using them – soft, crisp, moving, inert.

Why can’t school be more like the rest of the lives? Why can’t we use what is learned to learn? In music, playing or singing is the best way to compose. In sports unending physical acts in practice allow for games to happen. How often do athletes spend all their time on the caulk board and then go out to play? If they did what would happen.

Some people, and soon me, are confronting students of architecture with the challenge to do what they come to school to learn how to do as a way to become what they want by doing what they value: in architecture that means building beauty: I am engaging in working with a crew of teachers, architects, theorists to be a cog in the teaching of architecture because I have spent 40 years building over 700 things, then taking the time to write millions of words about it.

It’s in Naples, Italy: it is tiny and starts in a month: Could you read this piece?

Here’s my take on this new program, but more the professional devotion of my life: Building Beauty. Its not transactional, its not intellectually constructed – my life has and is steeped in the full choreography of ideas, art, things, humans, climate, gravity, and yes: beauty. I hope you can see why this is worth my time (and yours reading this)

Eye of Irma

September 9, 2017


I once had a client here in Connecticut that could live anywhere in North America and chose to live in New England.

“It’s the only place I have warning.” She had been through the big San Francisco earthquake of the 1990’s and fled to a place that had few, if any, instant disasters. In Connecticut earthquakes, tornadoes, mudslides, even brush fires are incredibly rare and the hurricanes we face have a long warning week as we track “The Cone”.

This few weeks everyone is looking at cones. Harvey is a nightmare, and Irma is a bookend Super Storm: it makes for compelling attention. And because we do get hurricanes – the last one was a few years ago – we in New England have a special perspective: we are often The Event’s Big Finish so gallows humor, Swamp Yankee resolve, even Karma Talk enter in.

But this year there is an added mind warp: our political situation. President Trump is largely loathed up here, so the InterNetWebs churn out a constant hate spew. And any pretext – heels, golf, weight – creates new schadenfreude sarcasm and mocking.

But those hate focii are human foibles, there is some culpability for having orange skin and a ferret on your head. Acts of God are just that: mindful of no human, even a president.

Until this administration.

It was announced that Irma may devastate the Trump White House, Mar-a-Lago. Just one of millions of places to be wrecked by our climate. Even if you blame climate deniers for extreme weather, they did not cause Irma, and Donald Trump has been in office for less than a year. But still some see God’s Vengeance in the potential destruction of his home. Not surprising.

Of course, a local Facebook hub of Resistance seized on the news, comments glared and grew in response to Mar-a-Lago’s bad prognosis:

“While I wish no ill for the people of Florida… wouldn’t that be well deserved KARMA for the ILLEGITIMATE POTUS who said: “I moved on her like a BITCH”? Sorry, NOT SORRY”

“Karma” may not be a Christian Canon, but it manifests a Cosmic Higher Order. But others are not so shy about bringing God into the path of the hurricane:

“I believe it may be God’s will, for the transgender ban, the Muslim ban, and the general fuckwittery.”

Others are completely certain that the transgressions of a baffling president literally caused a cataclysmic destruction of his place:

“If Mar-A-Lago is hit, it will be God’s way of telling the United States how effed up they are, “electing: Trumpkin. I am sure of it. 😉
Sent from my iPhone”

And others are giddy at the thought of discovering a grand inconsistency in Faith and Political Consequences as found in a secular world co-opted by fundamentalist demons:

“I just can’t wait to hear the Right Wing Conservative Fundamentalist Christian preachers explain why God would punish tRump like this!”

We want to know why. Why Trump is here. Why Harvey drowned Texas and beyond. We want to know, predict, even control what happens – despite all facts that pre-empt knowing. Some want to know so badly they revile the faith that let’s unanswered questions maintain less ultimate power over us because we believe in the ultimate good of God. Somehow rage follows for those who feel threatened by their impotence: whether it’s against those in power they hate or weather they wish they could understand.

The transition to hate fosters a Magical Emnity that warps any inconvenient evidence into a weapon. Ignorance is sculpted in conspiracy simply because there is no Faith beyond what is knowable.

In truth, for me, Fear is the Devil. Fear simply causes Hate. Jesus got wrecked because humans feared. What? Often incoherent fear has the supreme power to make the love and goodness of every one of those Face Book posters convert their humanity into revenge in devining a design in Irma’s destruction of Mar-a-Lago.

Tragedy often involves hate – pretty much every war. But hurricanes do not hate. They wreck what we build, often the fruits of our beliefs, and they kill some of us: but I do not see a cockpit in the eye where a vengeful Entity metes out Karma. Or Justice.

Sometimes our worst can reveal our best: the extreme destruction of a hurricane allows love to flow. I just hope the flow of hate we have all experienced in the last year or two can Ju-Jitzu into a perspective that reveals that anger hurts more than heals.


September 5, 2017


Humans know they are going to die, so they want meaning in their lives. Beyond just being grateful for the gift of existence, some of us believe that being given anything is a given – there is a Reason for our being here. If you are ending, you want to count while you are here you have several options:

You can choose to live for you. You can be grateful for the things you have been given, especially life itself, and assume they are an unmerited gift and love, well, a lot. Or you think there is a much greater Truth, you are part of it, and there is a transaction it offers – more than just a gift. For some of those that means judging, converting and defining the rules of what you know and applying them and saving others.

There are many implications of this last mindset. They are different from each other, but equally fervent. Some believe that we all must have a “Safe Space” – or now, a “Brave Space”. Or we must follow Trump. We must end Trump. We must not eat anything that breathes. We must not eat anything that’s made by things that breathe. We must take Communion.

Well, think about life 400 years ago. The extreme hypocrisy of Papal oligarchy made life a raging anger by those who could see the dishonesty of humans using God for themselves.

So there was Martin Luther. Then there was the Church of England. And then there were those who saw that even a break from a break from the crushing corruption of the dominant church was simply not enough.

There were Puritans.

They wanted their rules, completely. At least in their lives. They were so convinced even the presence of their lives in the space of fellow rule breakers was a huge buzz-kill.

So they left. They went, effectively, to Mars.

And New England was born. And my co-author Steve Culpepper and I made a book. The last 400 years have seen this radical, rejectionist, my-way-or-the-highway, group landed on Mars and then felt the crush of God’s Gift so much that that devoted the best land in their places to Him (The Green), controlled their families, governed their communities, spent 1 day a week in a full fugue of worship.that radical rejection changed everything since, here in the social place they created.

It was not passive. Those who are not passive find ways to extend their insight beyond themselves, The Masters (or whatever they are called now) of a Yale college were effectively fired, because they poo-poo-ed Halloween costumes. This year.

In the book we posit that you think about the fictional scenario that Scientologists are so alienated by the reaction to their unconventional beliefs that they pay Elon Musk to take them to Mars. Just like the Puritans going to an equally distant New World.

Then think about the American Revolution, the Abolitionist Movement, Transcendentalism, the Suffrage Movement, the Prohibition Movement and realize nothing has changed: what we believe motivates. Starting in New England. If it really was “All Good” we would be drunk or stoned and in the sack 24/7. We are not.

Today for some “privilege” is disdained to the point where any “entitlement” Should be pre-empted by action or law. Alternatively anything that ended the time when America was great must be ended. Or, for others, If you do not worship my God you are living in soulless Hell – no matter how you feel.

Life has moments of connection. We connect to others, to a place, even to ideas. But in this book we seek to connect to history in a place. I think you might like it

Disease & Devotion

September 1, 2017


In the middle on my annual week off (needed or not) I spent a full hour of brown alcohol assisted dialogue with a psychologist after dinner the other night. The topic was, not surprisingly, God. More accurately religion. What follows is as accurate as 4 or 5 ounces of bourbon after dinner allows (Best Hits version):

>(my friend) “How can you even begin to believe in the draw of mystic hypocrisy that enslaves so many with base fear?”
>(me) “I don’t.”
> “But religion does!”
> “I am not religion and neither is Faith.”
> “But all the humans killed, lives wrecked in the name of all this bullshit!”
> “All true.”
> “But they all hate each other, whether Allah, Buddha, Christ – it’s all about fear and hate!”
> “Not for me: it would really be easier just to believe in me.”
> “EASIER?!? Are you crazy? Religion takes you off the hook – you are certain about the right things, the salvation, heaven – hell!”
> “I am completely unsure of any of those things, but I know, without the ability to disprove, any of it, that I am compelled to be better than I am.”
> “C’mon, you believe in Christ, you buy into the whole Bible thing, you are convinced! If he even existed…”
> “As much as anyone knows anything 2,000 years ago, we know he was there and got killed.”
> “OK, yeah, but those words, the judgment, condemnation, prescription, dehumanizations – and created 300 years after he died! If Constantine was not alive, there would be no Christianity!”
> “Umm the stuff was written down a hundred years after The Event, and a lotta people saw all that stuff in real time and were into it, so much so that they got dead because of it – and, unlike some of my friends, I know that the words themselves are written by humans, and those words are applied by humans, used by humans.”
> “So you agree with the rejection of fundamentalist hate and stupidity,”
> “I am not down with dumb and angry.”
> “Then how can you believe this crap? It’s all about power and fear!”
> “Religion, any religion, is the best guess by flawed humans at interpreting a Faith to everyone else – I have dedicated my life to help build things, but people look at my drawings and words and still make crap out of them – shit happens – but truth is unavoidable. But stuff ends up right”
> “But it kills, it lies, it uses people – religion is the worst of what we are – religion is evil!”
> “Well, Stalin, Mao, Hitler were not into religion. Humans can be pretty evil, without any help.”
> “Yeah, but this faith thing is all a lie – it helps no one, they just think they are better than those around them, they don’t have to think, they don’t need doubt or reason or science.”
> “I believe in God, and I know no one, no one, is worse than me. I have deep, abiding, hard questions. And Faith, regardless of religion, has helped billions.”
> “That’s all bullshit: Faith helps no one -”
> “All those studies of Faith and the sick -”
> “ALL LIES! I know, I am a doctor, faith helps no one, it’s all marketing, crap to get more people into hospitals! It’s designed to make faith stronger!”
> “Then it does not work: people are leaving God – ”
> “No they’re not! Those evangelicals are growing faster than anything – ”
> “No – those disclaiming any religion have tripled in less than a generation..”
> “Oh – but it’s a small number”
> “The numbers professing a religion are shrinking – hard. And that proves your argument on the problem with religion. Canon, for me, totally sucks – one size does not fit all, growing churches is not a goal, but it should be a result -”
> “But they lie, all the time. They are intolerant! They hate science! Science is truth and they hate truth!”
> “I love science. I do not care what adult has sex with what adult – I have enough problems – and, Faith is not religion BTW.”
> “Yes it is! Without religion how can there be any God?”
> “He is there no matter what we, no matter what I, do – God is there, in me, not out there.”
> “How do you know?”
> “I know”
> “Look, I am an MD, I know disease, I know how religion hurts people, it infects them, it kills them – ”
> “Like drugs or football?”
> “Yeah! They are forced into all that by their parents, their culture, they go to church or they go to hell, they kill the infidel and they go to heaven!”
> “No one made me believe in God, or play football. -I went to church with my family, then didn’t for 10 years. I went to a school that had football – I was terrible, really bad, but loved it, deeply – I came to listen to God too, despite all the rest..,”
> “What?”
> “Most everything – living in New England, an Ivy guy in a smart neighborhood, people like you, there are arguments that take over – architecture, politics, kids – none of it accepts ultimate faith in God – it all screams to me to have faith in acts, and in truth I have extreme faith in kicking ass”
> “So, what, religion excuses all the hard stuff? You believe in this stuff you know what’s right and wrong, you know that you are going to heaven -”
> “No, stop, I know nothing – I have no idea what is going on out there, I know that the more is known the less we realize is known, – and religion is tanking, big time, people are running away from religion because it’s way lame in many ways for many people – I just do what loves others with what I have been given – no excuses.., the rest is connection, fitting that truth to the culture – mostly badly…”
> “Well, but religion still is an abomination, it’s a terrible thing…”
> “Yeah, I guess it often is for many people.”

the Other Home – a Podcast

August 29, 2017



We all live somewhere. It’s often our refuge, or a point of pride – but for many it’s just a bed to rest our head: For some home is a binary: it involves an alternative universe – the “second home”. Some people have both a workaday dwelling and a separate idyll. Thoreau had a tiny place on Walden Pond, but had a larger home elsewhere. I have a barn 60 feet from my house.

Sometimes we just need a break: an unessential place to be, the “B” side to our life album – a distinct place where we can live out a complete life. Whether it’s a pied a terre in the city, a cabin in the woods, or a place on the lake: its different. Its usually created without a hard schedule, its “unnecessary”, we often handcraft it ourselves. It may be a luxury, but it’s most often not luxurious. What do our second homes say about us?

Joining us is Minnesota architect and best-selling author Dale Mulfinger. He founded SALA Architects and has written numerous books about architecture, architects and homes: but his most publically successful series of books is dedicated to the cabin He has a new book by Taunton Press coming out, but more, his experience and insights on the human need to find relief and expression in a second place to live will be uniquely valuable to hear.

But we also hear from two people who have very different second homes they share their lives with. Alison Clarkson is a Vermont State Senator from Woodstock, representing the Windsor District, who not only grew up spending summers at her mother’s family’s Adirondack retreat, Windover, but watched as her immediate family built a home of their own there – on the lake where scores of other family members for almost a century have created a community – and she and her own family bought a place in this special place where a multigenerational, far flung family comes together.

But its not always a family compound, second homes are most often centered on the immediate family. Michel de Konkoly Thege’s family are another second home story. Building a life in New York City also meant the creation of their own family meant creating a place where Michel’s family can get away from the hubbub and actually dig in the dirt, swim in salt water and have the kind of space and light that simply cannot be had in almost any urban location – and then theu have reinvented that place several times as their family evolved. A few hours away from Manhattan is a different world, and has been for almost 30 years.

Come explore with HOME PAGE the “other” place to live!








August 29, 2017


Gold Model

Getting Done in Westchester


Stairs Going Up

Goetsche Stairs


Sherman Stokes Entry

Getting Done in San Francisco


 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 Common Edge: Architecture and the Illusive, Maddening and Thrilling Quest for Beauty

In Unorthodox Podcast: Birthright for WASPs?

In The New Haven Register: For Union Station garage, why not better and bigger?

In Common Edge: Swipe Left: How Technology Has Skewed Architectural Competitions

In Mockingbird: Football At Last: A Preseason Preview

In Mockingbird: Suburbia at the Mid-Century: Church

In Common Edge: Does the New Traditionalism Have A Point?

In Mockingbird: Giddy Godless Weddings

In Common Edge: What’s Happened to Architectural Record’s Record Houses issue?

In Mockingbird: On Being Fat (and Life’s Other Unavoidable Criteria)

In Mockingbird: The Girls of Whitehaven: Love and Friend Requests in Cyber Space

In Mockingbird: Taking a Dip in the Dark Side

In Common Edge: Building Madness: How the Boom and Bust Mentality Distorts Architecture

In Mockingbird: An Irrational Lack of Fear…

In Mockingbird: Designing Justification: A Conference Talk Preview

In Common Edge: Confessions of a New AIA Fellow, or “Getting the “F”

In Mockingbird: Something Missing (In Recovery Services)

In Common Edge: Imitation, Innovation, and the 700th Cantilever

In Mockingbird: April Fools! College Admission and Parental Validation

In Mockingbird: Politics, Fragility, and the Self-Made Life

In New Haven Register: New Haven Is Putting Its Money Where Its Modernism Is

In Common Edge: Separating Architecture From The Building Arts Produces Soulless Structures

In Mockingbird: Alternative Faith: Click Crack, Fakes News, and Good News

In Common Edge: The Uneasy Relationship between Architect’s and Money

In Mockingbird: Pray for Voldemort?

In Issuu: Masonry Design JanFeb2017

In Mockingbird: Rite One – Law & Order

In Mockingbird: The Academic Terror Dream

In Common Edge: Is Architecture as Fractured as our Politics?

In Hartford Courant: New Interest in Iconic Pirelli Building

In Hartford Courant: Final Touchdown: Hand HS Coach Steve Filippone Passes The Ball After 37 Years

In Mockingbird’s Mockingcast Podcast: Special Episode: The Holiday Survival Guide

In Common Edge: Is Cost Architecture’s Weakest Link To Reality?

In Common Edge: The AIA’s Tone-Deaf Response to the Election of Donald Trump

In Common Edge: The BIM Moment: What We’re Losing in the Robot-Age of Architecture

In Mockingbird: The Big Mo: Feeling and Rationalizing ‘Momentum’

In New Haven Register: Why spend $60 million on an ugly building

In Common Edge: What Architecture Has in Common with Organized Religion

In Mockingbird: What is Faith? A Look at the Religiosity of Football Fans

In U.S. News Real Estate: How to Design and Build Your Own Custom Home

In Common Edge: What Do Architects and Commercial Fishermen Have in Common?

In Common Edge: In Architects We Trust? 10 Trusts Worth Busting

In Common Edge: Donald Trump as Architectures Nightmare Client

In Unorthodox: Just the Two Of Us

In Hartford Currant: Yale’s Edifice Complex: University is Building a Modern History for its Future

In Common Edge: Modern Restoration and the Veneration of Its Hero Architects

In Common Edge: When Intellectual Diversity Mattered

In Common Edge: Why Architecture Doesn’t Do More Pro-Bono Work

In Common Edge: The AIA’s Response to Crisis Call In the Stars

In Common Edge: Will Architecture Have Its Donald Trump Moment?

In New Haven Independent: Visionary Bromances

In New Haven Independent: Architecture Becomes a Lifestyle

In New Haven Independent: That’s It?

In New Haven Register: Battered Homeowner Syndrome in New Haven

In New Haven Register: New Haven Knights of Columbus building – an icon reclad

In Common Edge: Why Architecture Needs More Building Architect Critiques

In Common Edge: Architects Design Just 2% of All Houses – Why?

In Common Edge: Death & Architecture

In Common Edge: Sprinting to the Past

In Hartford Courant: Deborah Berke, First Woman To Lead Yale’s School of Architecture

In Common Edge: Architecture Has Become a Lifestyle Choice

In Daily Nutmeg: Creation Story

In Next Avenue: Aging and Your Home: The Coping Quotient

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 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