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DREAM HOUSE

July 31, 2017

 

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A GREAT PODCAST:
https://soundcloud.com/wpkn895/home-page-radio-with-duo-dickinson-july-17

 

We all want “our” home. Some want it so badly that they find a way to design and build their dream. Even fewer hire a designer to create a unique reflection of who they are. This very special Home Page focuses on a real life scenario where a homeowner and a designer joined forces to build a place to live in New Haven. Both will be in studio to relay their story, but it’s your job to review the photo’s below to go where radio can’t: image and space.

Designer Colin Caplan http://www.magrissoforte.com met editor and journalist Nina Lentini on one of his “Pixxa & Pints” bike tours. Both are gregarious. Both love pizza and architecture. Caplan trained to be an architect at Tulane, writes books about New Haven and beyond organizing tours has been an employee of numerous local architects, Both Colin and Nina talk to strangers. The rest is recent history.

Nina and her significant other Richard Norman had a tiny lot in New Haven, and Caplan created a very clear shape and an allusive skin, evoking many client fantasies as well a fantastic interior space and large window corner opening up to the backyard. Through humor and commitment, a dream was built.

According to Caplan:

“The client, empty nesters from the suburbs, wanted to build a small house on a tiny lot. The lot was a garbage strewn property in a transitional inner city neighborhood, once the site of a multifamily apartment house. They wanted a design that stood out from others on the street, made of early 20th century multifamily frame housing and apartments. At first they suggested a modular designed unit, but it was determined to be too constrictive. Art Deco style was indicated early on as a favorite. Clients also liked the idea of escaping the facade design on the rear of their house. As we developed their program for a two bedroom, on bathroom 700sf house I considered the context of neighboring designs and scale, sunlight, rain & snow, spacial balance & materials. Project needed zoning relief on the rear and passed its hearing. During construction changes were made to value engineer certain systems and fixtures. Original exterior skin on facade was to be stucco, but was changed to a fiberboard composite sheathing.”

Cost was a factor: and bidding got it to around $200K  – the winning bidder knew Nina in High School. A two year process created a tangible piece of love in the new world of empty-nesters. The openness of the interior and the graphic pattern of the exterior make for humor, surprise, memory and connection to the owner’s lives: as well as the window wall bonding house to the land, inside and out.

Even in a post Housing Bubble, House Happens

“Astonishing…”

July 27, 2017

It has been 4 months. I offered the situation to no one, but I wrote about it – twice, including a national venue. http://www.mbird.com/2017/05/an-irrational-lack-of-fear/ Please forgive a Thrombus coda, but a handful might appreciate it.

People are still surprised when it naturally comes up in conversation. I spent 100 hours at Yale New Haven Hospital at the Spring Solstice. I was given feedback at a level that could not have been more direct or deep. Thousands of images of a blown artery, flawed since birth, unknown till blown, and about as many tests revealed a high blood pressure, and that I was a bit fatter that I should be.

Having lost 1/3 of myself 10 years ago, about 1/3 of that crept back on – at the extra Milano-a-day rate. I stopped eating those long ago, but I now ended Triscuits, cheese, dessert, lunch, milk, and other things, and upped the exercise to get the blood pressure down via body mass loss and greater efficacy in moving blood.

I failed.

Even though I lost a couple of stone, and have another to go, worked out that extra half hour a day, for an extra day a week to almost every day, I now take a pressure-limiting drug. So at 122/65 pressure and 55 heart beat I am acceptably drugged (with a statin and a teeny aspirin).

I know this only because a month ago I went to the 3 month follow up for another 40 minutes of testing by a neurologist. Dozens of complex body-eye-hand regimes, all measuring my ability to track something with my eyes and balance – revealing any ways my thrombic break might have caused an impact.

“astonishing..” He said during one exam.

“Is something wrong?” I dead-panned – he responded “No your response is exceptional, especially at your age.”

He then launched into finding out why I was “astonishing.” It came down to my daily torture on machines in my barn for about 90 minutes. Every day.

“So you worked out since the event?”

“Before too”

“How long?”

“For 15 years.”

“You inoculated yourself!” Blurted the doctor. I then was scheduled for an MRA (too much radiation given to me in the 100 hours post event stay to have another radiological measure).

That viewing, apparently, has revealed nothing as I have heard nothing in 2 weeks since the screaming tube scan 30 minutes – including looking at my neck.

I feel fine but aware that I only remain fine at the will of a greater wheel that I cannot control or understand.

So I work out and take pills. And eat one 1,500 calorie dinner a day.

It’s training camp, again.

The Next Thing…

July 25, 2017

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A recent world wide economic study noted that America as a whole has lagged behind most of the world in getting over “The Financial Crisis.” Duh. I know folk in Boomlet places – San Fransisco, the northwest, maybe even Boston – but for most of the rest, just like the red ocean of the Electoral Map, it’s an odd time.

Humans have multiple epochs in their lives: childhood, high school/college, mating, spawning, life with kinder, life after they leave: as our average lifespan gets longer we have more expectations than gratitude. Pretty normal.

But this last decade has been nuts.

Especially for anyone in the building industry. The “irrational exuberance” of the first decade of the 21st century OD’d and we are still in the detox mode.

In this maelstrom some in the U.S. wanted to “Make America Great Again” – we are all seeking a metronome – even a normal boom-bust cycle. If a 3 year boom was followed by a 3 year bust, we would be into our second Boom after The Big Bust – but we are still in the Sargasso Sea of Cultural Ennui.

So dinner party conversation hits the Trump Iceberg, where those finding hope in him find enraged disbelief by those who see the oddest human ever elected president. Similarly, when architects gather, the “haves” in the buiding zones are chest out getting what they deserve. The rest, the most, talk of “new expressions” or delight in surviving.

For my little office, just like in every other bust, we laid off no one, met every payroll, and still have over 50 projects. But we are down one or two employees, the project budget is perhaps 40% less than in the insanity of infinite appreciation expectations and I make the same I made in all the other busts – not much. But it’s been 8 years…

The jobs are smaller

But some are exquisite

And after getting about 10 new projects in the last few months, it’s clear people still want to create their home: but with less dollars flowing I am asked to go places and thus talk less. But I write more – even a book in the fall and maybe another in a year.

But with fatherhood more advice than protection, and no more tuition payments to make, somehow I am drawn into the realities of dealing with a legacy of Faith for those children. http://www.mbird.com/2017/07/suburbia-at-the-mid-century-church/

The issue is not change: this always has been and will be because humans cannot leave well enough alone. We try new things: I bought a banjo I never played. We surf on the moment: some of tried to give the boom in house creation some perspective and share the potential for value before implosion. Those efforts failed.

But fewer have the Faith that binds all of us to a greater reality than our video viewing. Careers are stepping stones because the profession you commit to has fewer places that commit back. More marriages either do not happen or are simply voided. We have less connection.

We connect less with what is around us that is not on a screen, but more we are less connected to a thoughtful past or a verdant future. We are, mostly, living for the next thing. In response we are asked to enter more and more passwords to vouch for our connection. It is harder for we who have no family. Beyond my parents being dead, they were distant at birth and distracted from their children and thus their children from each other, let alone connected to their own siblings or their offspring.

When the disconnected are set afloat in a disconnected era, it’s not pretty. Being in a disconnected profession, the island is in foul weather, I can attest that the island not part of a tropical archipelago.

What is left to all of us is hope, as the uncertainties of driverless Uber cars, BIM softwear eliminating the human work that helped create hundreds of thousands of architects, and a bizarre mode of national discourse make for cyber distractions and binge watching.

And when we are left holding the bag of hope, and that bag has no Faith in it except our sense of unrequited entitlement, it’s not a comfy decade. Might I suggest what got my little firm through the the other 3 (shorter) busts and drives almost all my clients: the sense of gratitude?

While we have less, we have. While there is uncertainty everywhere, uncertainty lacks the buzzkill of a sealed fate: we are sentient, and reactive. The dye has not been cast. While the InterWebNets are choked with bile and despair and cheap co-opting: we grow weary of the noise.

The Next Thing is out there. It is as unanticipated as the InterWebNets were 20 years ago. Presidential terms end. People are devoted to creating places of joy, not fortresses against dark doom.

There is Faith, even without all the trimmings.

 

Being A Monk @16

July 10, 2017

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This is an evolution of a piece at the behest of a friend, who read the first piece https://savedbydesign.wordpress.com/2017/06/24/summer-of-1972/ and noted that I had become a monk for 6 weeks: I went with it

“I’ll see you in August.”

My mother shut the door of our 1968 Oldsmobile Vista Cruiser station wagon, yet another time, after three years of serial withdrawal, returning to Westchester County, the bosom of New York City Suburbia. I was remoted up north, so she could serially remote herself from her marriage.

It was June in downtown Buffalo, 1972. It was hot. I was 16. It was a couple of weeks into the summer after 11th grade. The previous fall I had been voted one of the 2 captains of my high school football team, that had, again, won our very small private school league championship.

I had become self–sufficient, really only requiring my parents money to survive. Coming to Buffalo, my life had ceased to have its weekly island of church. Even when my mother was visiting, about half-time, being a mid-century Low Church Episcopalian simply ended. My guess is that those weekly jaunts, without my father, were the micro version of my evacuation.

Once gone, I was out of sight and out of mind to who was left south: just as was my father when my mother was in Buffalo. This was an unspoken, largely irrational gesture of accommodation of my family’s dysfunction (my father drank). But it’s real impact for me, largely unknowable for 20 years or more was that my four years in Buffalo were a situation facilitating sanctification.

I only realize this now, 45 years later, because Mockingbird has given me the perspective to understand beyond a self-help manual. Unlike a 10 Step Program, my “self-actualization” had a “spiritual” basis. I just thought I was surviving.

I knew, even at the time, in the absence of parenting, but with extreme edges of devotion, that I was left to be a monk in downtown Buffalo. Mockingbird defines my summer of 1972 as a “sanctification” :

“The concept of “sanctification” is taken from the Latin word sanctificare, which is a combination of sanctus “holy” and facere “to make.” Sanctification, then, refers to the process of becoming more holy/righteous/good/etc, of growing or maturing in faith.”

But to a 16 year old who wanted to play, it was the last chance to crush it. I had played some on my football team, less as the year went on. Not being a natural athlete I had played in the fall of 1971 because I was ready, because I worked out the summer before. I also played because I focused on the thing I cared more about than anything else – being good at football. This summer could command my full measure – to give me the benefit of the doubt.

My other focus, my best friend, was leaving, too. She was a classmate, and she summered in the Adirondacks. My co-inhabitant of our house was my 21 year old brother, who worked – and never said much to me if he was around – and when around he was often remotely in the hands of mind alteration.

So, this time when my mother left, I was alone, again.

In the previous spring I had discovered that the University of Buffalo had a program for rising high school seniors: if in, you could enroll in any undergraduate course. Including summer courses. Heaven. I applied, and got in.

I did odd jobs on my block for expense money, but my parents agreed to pay for any courses I could enter: remarkably inexpensive at a state school 45 years ago. I entered two 400-level, max credit courses. Both courses were 5 days a week, for 6 weeks, I wanted to do this because I was into school: grades were a thing I could do.

One course, reading and discussing about 24 Shakespeare plays, met from 7:45 to 9:15am. The other was about the history of Britain from the Magna Carta to The Bill of Rights and met one building away from 9:30 to 11. The professors were remarkable, the topics fascinating – it was a complete immersion.

But I was immersed in football too.

I was slow of foot, so I had worn 5 pound ankle weights for a year when I was not working out or sleeping. I had no driver’s license, so I rode my bike everywhere, rain or shine or dark of night. For several years I rode to the Downtown Buffalo YMCA where other high school athletes, off duty police and interpersonally ambiguous middle aged men were. The kids and cops worked out – the others seemed to watch.

So there was my summer: mornings cycling 10 miles up Main Street to classes, then cycling to our house, changed, had a large shake of protein powder, 6 raw eggs, vanilla extract, honey and skim milk, back on the bike cycling down Main Street to hit the track and weight room for 3 hours: then back home by 5 to study, sleep at 10 and wake to do it again. Weekends were working out and studying.

Six weeks seemed like an endless sea of time. I had 24 hours a day to do what was necessary, and only what was necessary. It was bliss. Letters from my friend, living with Cromwell and Shakespeare, sore and crushing it in the gym.

I had no friends, no family, no hobbies, no social life. But I had two things to do as hard as I could do them. In rotation: Mind, Body, Mind, Body. School, Gym, School, Sleep. 24 hours a day for 46 days. I went to bed exhausted. Mind racing, thinking of the next day

I never said a word before 7:45AM or after 11AM, and I was largely silent on weekends. There was no questioning: This was Right. I could do this. My grades were good, the class discussions intense and fun. My Leg Press on the old Universal Gym Weight Machine as completely maxed out, and my bench press was finally approaching my weight. I came to run, with the ankle weights, for an hour without distress – pushing to go faster on the 1922 banked track around the basketball court.

I could do this.

I may not have a family, I may not have straight A’s, I may not be the best player on my team – but I could get better.

I could get better.

Like those monks who have remoted themselves from the here and now are, I was intentionally pursuing sanctification. I fully immersed myself in dedication. I meshed with oblique academia for 4 hours a day, then I immersed my mind and body, completely, to do what I knew was right and good – to completely control my young life.

I had rejected distraction in the noise of the world to create an all-consuming day of maximum application of my mind, body, and yes, spirit. If you asked me if I was a Christian in 1972, I would profess confusion. There was no confusion here: I had created narrow perfection: I was in a place of sanctification: albeit with worldly means and motives.

But clearly, somehow, I had faith. In denial, control, focus, – in extreme limitation I fully launched into silence.

I was, for a short time, a monk. There were few questions. There were some answers. Those before me on the practice field in August paid a terrible price.

 

Hair

July 9, 2017

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Maybe its because my mother went to her grave at 4 score and more years ago with dark brown hair self-applied with Alberto VO5 and a plastic bag – all smelling of a lab – but I do not get the attention paid to hair.

I am 61: my hair is leaving the top of my head – flying off into my comb, but my eyebrows, ears and nose are rampaging in unabated hair explosion.
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(not me above) But there is a huge money and time dump being spent by so many people that I completely do not grok, that it is clear I am quite tone deaf.

Others have the same relocated hair and heavily manage it with shaving
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Or others have their hair turn gray (as I presume my mother did) and dye it
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or worse “Hair in a Can” or fake hair, or surgically relocated folicles, or baseball hats.

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Others (mostly male, but I make no assumptions) take enormous pride in having carefully sculpted beards – “hipster” beards –
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But lately, the arbitrary, often DIY primary color hair coloring on usually normally frumpy unhip humans is virtual self mockery
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All of these flailing efforts are the extreme manifestations of our entire culture somehow buying into the idea that hair is either an opportunity for self expression, or experimentation, or fixing a flaw: Its like a huge social tattoo that can be removed.

I cannot see how time can be thwarted, how I cannot be as lame as I am, how a “Look” makes me into a different person. If I am right the zillions of hours and dollars spent are just another backstroke against tides of inevitabilities that all of us feel compelled to do.

Cutting, coloring, shaving, sculpting is at best temporary, and looks infinitely worse without even more hours and dollars dumped into upkeep.

This stuff grows.

I know because I have to cut my nose hairs when I sense I am distracting people, but who is fooling who?

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“The Pursuit Of Happiness”

July 4, 2017

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Its the Fourth of July and I am in the office. Not odd, as its my office, but yesterday was a classic road day, as yesterday meant people had the day away from their work, and thus they could work with their architect.

3 states, 300 miles, 6 visits: first design ideas offered up, then budget results discussed, then a job site visited, then another, then a design evolution face-to-face, then a potential client, then home.

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It took 11 hours. From a $million+ home to a $15K deck, to projects in between, it was, perhaps, my 50th multi-location trip of the year, and I have done at least 3,000 of them since I have had a practice.

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You could say this is a necessary reality of being a house architect. But its about as necessary as this piece. I seem to be itinerant: others have clients meet in their office, or do not take small work far away, or agree to meet on “vacation” days. Many have hobbies. Many gather with their fellow architects. Most work for other people and have “hours”.

I am clearly in pursuit of something. Does it make me happy? I am happy driving home – if things went well. But none of the meetings, and none of the 3000 trips solved anything. The various processes were advanced, the projects moved forward, but there was no “completion”. The pile was pushed forward, but not removed.

On the simplest level I served the mission. I insert myself amid many competing aspects to make ideas more real. Some ideas are fully realized. Others should not, or cannot be made real, but there are many, they need reality-checking. Seeing, talking, touching these truths has to happen.

The pursuit of happiness is not happiness. But for me exhaustion is necessary – not completion. Effort is the means to get to being spent. If there is omission, fear, or spacing out – if there is no road trip, the mission is MIA.

Others binge watch. They shop. They go to movies or the mall. They tour or read. Somehow I cannot. I write enough reading is a necessary assignment. TV fills a place where I cannot do something else. Unless my wife buys them, my underwear is 20 years old.

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And I write this on a “vacation day” because, well, its part of the mission. I wish I had faith that its a good thing. But it seems to have been necessary. Some, not all, sharks swim to breath. Others have developed the ability to rest and push water across their gills.

Apparently I am one of those fish who needs movement to breath. This cannot last, but its seems, like the swimming shark, natural.

Is the shark happy?

Disappointment In The Bubble Bath

June 30, 2017

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I woke up to be disappointed by the Yankees losing 4-3 in Chicago last night. I was disappointed because I had expectations for a team I like listening to on the radio. I thought they would capitalize on a 1-0 lead when I turned the radio off at 11:10.

I also woke up to disappointed dungeon at Leader Trump’s latest Tweet. I did not say President, and I did not say attack, because well, for the next few years, we have Donald Trump’s Tweets meaning far more than they actually are because he was elected.

I have been at a few bars. When a drunk says some blather, I smile and sip my own. He is drunk. It’s a bar. Clearly Leader Trump is drunk without ever having a drink – drunk on an image of himself.

The disappointment of so many in his unconsidered spew assumes that there is some existing condition or expectation that has not been changed, that has been violated, that “is just too much.” Really? We had a full year and a half of uncontrolled, unpostured raw spew of self-serving, nonsensical bar-blather in a full-on presidential race. Before that a full 30 years of national media exposure of the shallow, posturing, meaningless knee-jerk verbal junk food was just the reality of Trump’s presence.

He has always been the definitive “Vulgarian.”

It’s probably what got him elected. Leader Trump is just doing exactly what any reasonable expectation of him would have him do: spew.

There are things to be disappointed about (The Yankees are now in second place) – but Trump is not one of them. Anger, sure, but not outrage. Are you outraged when a drunk insults your parent? Are you outraged when a youth sports non-athlete child plays like he or she always has played?

Outrage, for me was the nomination. Enough folk actually wanted this result that I do not think they are disappointed or outraged either. The presidential election was an amazing reaffirmation of our very, very low expectations. That is what I am disappointed in – not Trump.

He has been the same odd combination of arrogant blather and megalomania for 2 generations – he has not “gone too far” because he was always absurd.

As expected, a mess is being made. That is bad. But this mess only happened because of the decade-long mess of economics, media, politics and loss of any faith in anything beyond those bubbles that water-birthed Leader Trump.

Of course media blows the bubble up to get ratings to get money. Of course political parties live in their bibles to defend and defeat so they can get power. Of course many are swept away by both to be outraged and surprised by each natural result of electing who was elected.

There is no magic. The “perfect college” that your kid got into is not Harvard. The bad note in a performance is not commentary on the piece, but the player. When you suck at a sport and you miss the tackle or drop the ball it’s fulfilling your reality: unless you change your reality.

The perfect combination of viscous media, frothing politics and heating waters of a bad economy have made a raging Bubble Bath. The bubbles of the outraged are getting bigger and the sloshing louder. But the plug will be pulled. Either things get better and this four years gets filed, or things get worse and power goes elsewhere. Not because of anger, but because of realities.

Faith, for me, is that change is possible. Some change is not possible. For him and all those who had faith in our Leader, he has not changed. There were 4 elections this spring and there was insufficient change to discourage any aspect of any Tweet.

I have deep, abiding faith in our Constitution. One Bubble in our bath thought by now that there would a closed border, a new free-market Health Care program, a new tax code, and really cool State Dinners by now. Others thought there would already been an impeachment, or an indictment, or at least a magic morph to presidency from being Leaser.

Those expectations popped. But the bubbles are still full and exclusive of the truth that makes them impossible.

There will be a game tonight for the Yankees. There will be another president. I know these truths not because I am in a bubble, but because of the hundreds of years of history behind both.