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Nightmares

September 11, 2019

I met my wife for our first date in April of 1980. We walked allll the way from 79th street to The World Trade Center we went to the Observation Deck and saw the sunset lights go on looking north up Manhattan. A dream come true, Love. Marriage. Two children.

Twenty plus years later, I am driving to Taunton Press to “seal the deal” on my 6th book. It was as bright as that day more than a score of years ago. But some plane had just hit one of those Towers when I left for my 10:30 meeting. “That’s too bad, some nut or incompetent”. Then another. Then that building fell down. Then the first. All on my car radio. A complete nightmare in a Saturn.

A client was there. Gone. Another across the street: Life completely changed. Forever. My career seems to simply push through all life eventualities. The book was a hit, it’s successor, the paperback, too. Now 2 more (that were not). 400 buildings, a hundred talks, building our barn, kids graduating. We are married, going on 40 years in a year.

But that was neither the first or last nightmare. It was just a very real one.

This morning, a nightmare, I guess, that was so real, I awoke thinking it was the next day. Otherwise these mind controls become versions of movies that I am in, huge errors I make, terror at some existential fear are virtually every night, punctuated by awakening, after the REM cycle completes.

“You should see a therapist.”

Sure. Why not? Well, perhaps I do not because the real terrors of things like 9-11, my sibling’s suicide, our childhood, are understood, not feared. No therapy will contextualize them, make them better than they were. After 60 years of sentience I do know myself, and know the things that are broken by acts of terror, whether by planes or childhood, are not fixed by remembering them better, only remembering them differently from reality, or forgetting them. Looking into the dark glass of age, there is a good chance both of those changes will happen naturally, without therapy.

Resignation to open wounds is not human. We, I, want to fix. Everything. Every day. I want to correct the person who mocks me for using “architect” as a verb (wrong, but vernacular, now). I want to design every building I see getting built. Every One.

And I know it is asinine.

So, in the reality of a megalomaniac who knows he is one, been given everything, deserved none of the unearned good and bad bits that befall ever human, why am I OK?

Because I know I cannot be responsible for something I did not create. Even the things I help do are not me. Because God made me, “not we, ourselves.”

Unending, unrelenting nightmares, some to the point of terror, are not understood, but not feared, either. I accept them as part of me, like the unnecessary 30 pounds that layers about my ungainly frame. I could lose those pounds, I could go to therapy about my night terrors, but what made them, and the desire to design every building I did not design (but still want to) is how I was made.

And I did not make me.

Whatever put together these zillions of cells and all the millions, nay, billions of other collected bodies of zillions of cells is as constant and as silent as my night terrors.

God, the reality so religiously denied, rejected and rationalized is just there, whether we like it or not. Our “perfection”, our justice, our “just desserts” have zero to do with the insanely complex reality that was made for us, but certainly, any reasonable apprehension has to know is fully impossible to pop up by chance.

Believing in the odds that even trillions of years can randomly design, integrate, sustain, adapt, revise and continue life is a fairy tale. One that says nothing matters. All is chance. Except maybe being loved. Or a resume. Or a bank account. Or having the next breath.

Those 3,000+ souls who simply stopped breathing were killed by such fairy tales of connection of personal, human insight by 20 men, who knew, knew, that God told them to blow up that morning. And told me I should design every building I see being built.

“No one knows God” – clearly, but the reality of our unnecessary destruction of the miracles of life is, to me and to every sentient person, heinous. Why?

Because God made the beauty that humans often wreck. And we know it is simply wrong, like those planes crashing into buildings so long ago, so fully real.

It’s Not Easy Being Fat

August 30, 2019


A dozen years ago I lost 1/3 of my mass. Since our wedding I zoftiged up to a precarious bulk. I did the math, and it was one extra Milano cookie a day, every day, for about 25 years.

I crushed the worst of the bloat in what is now called a “Keto” regime, but I knew and know as the “Stillman Diet” – a replay of my youth – water and meat only, and in full portions as desired, but nothing, zero, else, at all (save Eucharist 3 times a month).

Then a decade of fat creep, then a thrombic event, then a re-loss of 25%, but still about 30 pounds north of “should”, although I consume, at most, 2,500 calories a day, and, like I am doing now, kill at least 500 of those calories a day by working out at least 6.5 days a week for about 90 minutes a day, meaning I can maintain being a near Morbid BMI at about 1,800 calories a day, complete with a full-on muscle-mass burn (because I work out).

It is sad.

Last night, on Amtrak, I unvoidably was up close and personal with 2 women who were, simply, fat. Even fatter than me. They spoke energetically about the meals they were designing and were consuming. I was silently judgmental. Just as those who see my posterior and haunches and declare me to be a thoughtless glutton.

And I am, one meal a day. Dinner. One and done: “Episodic Fasting” unless I am just too beat, then and I have a raw 230 calorie bagel for “lunch”. And water.

At 64, I am bizarrely without health issues. I had one blood vessel with a bad middle layer. I have one cavity in my mouth (filled). Eyes that are so old that was once 20/40 is now about 20/30 on its way to needing reading glasses. My non-proctoscoped/mail-in intestine test sez I have no cancer there. (Or at least in the mail). And the other zillion thrombus-induced tests a couple of years ago declared me quite OK. With 2 blood pressure pills taken daily. And a statin.

Otherwise, no chronic anything. No shooting pain, loss of hearing. My heart rate is under 60 beats per minute. But I am 30 pounds above Not Fat.

And yet I judged those women – when I am them, just 30 years older. I just pulled myself out of my Very Fat Suit, and got into a Less Fat Suit. I am amazed at my Jackassery.

Unlike most cancers, much cardio and brain issues, what I do in life every day has no bad outcomes. 2 drinks 3 or 4 days a week, one slice of bacon a year, never smoked anything of any kind ever, I even dropped Triscuits because their fat trumped their ruffage.

But first sighting of me by others (and me) yet generates the “Fat” apprehension – as is reasonable. Since I have never had any compelling aesthetic, I shrug. I look in the mirror and faintly “ugh” and go onto the day.

But I judged those women (as I would males, BTW) – (I am an equal opportunity Fat Bigot).

But I will have a full dinner tonite.

As soon as I make up the hour cranking on my recumbent that I lost to an earlier start this AM.

Hypocritical, or simply the lazy self-loathing of we who underperform our righteousness?

Out of Luck

August 25, 2019

Andrew Luck has a tough name. It can be used, misused, appropriated to make a point at his expense. And he has a second flaw we all have: We are human.

And the human Andrew Luck cannot play football any more. “I know that I am unable to pour my heart and soul into this position, which would not only sell myself short but the team in the end as well. And it’s sad, but I have a lot of clarity in this. ”

I played football, badly, in the 1970’s, but I loved it enough that I was captain of my high school team, coached in the 1980’s and was thrilled to watch my son play in the 2000’s. So I know that a basic truth is that football hurts. There is no pain free practice, game, career, in fact every aspect of football has pain as part of its extreme pleasure.

All sports have pain and pleasure, but football has pain as part of its essential reality, unlike many other types of athletics. Pain is unavoidable. But for most of us the pleasure is more compelling and the tolerance of the pain validates the power of the love we feel for those we play with. Perhaps like the brutal pain of childbirth making the joy of holding your baby elementally powerful, in a much lesser light the catastrophic pain of playing football bonds young men to each other and to the sport that is very hard for the rest of the world to understand.

But Andrew Luck is a human. And pain, after over a decade has triumphed, over come the pleasure, and even the love of being with his beloved friends in football.

A four year cycle of pain and reinjury, and more pain, and playing through it, and now, again, yet another, his ankle, is Luck’s crushing reality at 29. He probably could play, physically for a while longer. The drugs, the prostheses, the offensive schemes could allow him to move and play, but his joy is lost, it was crushed in the unrelenting realities of the pain and the knowledge of the dead certainty of more pain to come. All of the time.

You could wax philosophic and say that Luck simply got what his devotion ultimately created. Or that the huge money that he made was enough for the rest of his life. Or that the ruthless manipulations of body and mind in pro sports wrecked a pure heart.

No, it just hurt too much.

The pain, and the promise of more, overcame the deep love he has for virtually all those he played with and against, even for those who made the hurt that he has to leave.

Before all our devotions we are human. God gives us the “bags of water” our bodies all are, spiced with tiny bits of material that let me write this, let Andrew Luck play, that made the pain he feels excruciating, and let him know that that pain will simply be there, maybe escalate, maybe end his abilities in any number of ways.

But those bits also allowed him to love the old and young, black and white, smart and not so much with a passion that is why any of us do life beyond eating, sleeping and binge watching.

All the other animals are blissful simply being. They like eating, sex, safety, and they fear the moment, the pain, and the threatening, but they have no idea that there is anything other than existence. The meaning of things is simply not there beyond the day they are in.

God gave us a spark of something. That spark makes all the unnecessary: it makes one play football, another music, still another make buildings beyond shelter. Andrew Luck may do that (he was an architectural engineering major at Stanford.)

But he may just know God well enough through his devoted friend and back up Matt Hasselback, a devout Christian, to know the one reality that keys living life beyond ourselves: in the end, the pursuits of the moment are just what God has allowed us to do.

In the end the reality of all of life around us, including the realities that those bits of material we have in our “bags of water” bodies allow us to do any of it, and to simply live. Those bits are not made by us. We, every bit of us, is a gift from God.

There is no rationale or equation why the violence of football, the cruelties of human anger, the unnecessary suffering of the innocent, the extreme pain that kept Andrew Luck from pushing his body until debilitation ended it, why any of this happens.

But we want to know Why all this happens. Why some of us devote to some things, why some simply do not care, why any of it means anything. Right now Andrew Luck has answered a central part of his purpose, and it is painful in every sense of the word.

But the inevitability of end is just a matter of time in every life. The meaning of that time you have been given means that you need to understand what has been given, and where it came from. And the answer is not on your cell phone.

The meaning that forced Andrew Luck to leave what he loves comes from a place that every one of us can access, but all of us fail too often to address: that what we want is often not what we have, that what could be is not, in the end, up to any of us.

We need to understand what we cannot reason. Some say that is prayer. That, to me is listening to God. I think Andrew Luck listened, and heard.

HOME AC: OK?

August 22, 2019

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PODCAST https://soundcloud.com/wpkn895/home-page-radio-home-ac-ok

America is 87% air conditioned. The government says 48% of all energy consumption in homes is due to heating or cooling the air, including Air Conditioning. We are also told we have 12 years to resolve carbon emissions before the world will permanently change. Reports are the electrical draw for air conditioning of developing world will have a 300% increase in the next 11 years. Our computers now require it. Our bodies are becoming less tolerant of heat.

What has changed? As of this week, my wife and I have lived in our home with no AC for 35 years. Why can’t others? Joining us are a group who deal with AC every day, a remarkable group:

Shane Cashman’s stories have appeared or are forthcoming in The Atlantic, BBC Travel, Penthouse, and VICE. He teaches Narrative Studies at Manhattanville College in Purchase, NY. His latest stories can be found at shanecashman.com But most importantly for this program, Mr. Cashman wrote the piece “The History of Air Condoning – calling air was once seen as sinful. Maybe that idea wasn’t entirely wrong.”

Stephanie Lesnik. Owner and farmer of Field House Farm in Madison. Mom of four and registered nurse. Stephanie has scores of animals: How does she she deal with the heat as it affects humans and beasts?

Curtis B. Wayne is a storyteller, a voiceover artist, a former radio producer and host, author of an architectural manifesto, and incidentally happens to have been a licensed architect since 1979. He has designed highly energy-efficient houses that do not require AC cooling.

Leigh Whiteman is born to a real estate family in Guilford, now 3 generations, is a Real Estate Broker and leader of a full-service real estate team, The Whiteman Team, at William Raveis Real Estate: Leigh, a 30 year real estate veteran is a “Luxury Properties Specialist” and went to school at Mount Holyoke College and Sarah Lawrence College. Is AC our future?

Mission Without Portfolio

August 21, 2019

35 years ago, to the day, Liz and I first awoke to our home. Two years in creation, 10 months in building, the sun streamed in a one bedroom home, and a childless couple started the first day for the next 35 years.

It was also my 29th birthday. My wife’s half birthday. Dates do not care about you, you care about them. And I do not care about them, I care what they mean to others..

Career Launched before 30. The American Dream.

1000 projects, 800 built, a two bedroom addition, 2 children, a barn, 8 books later, I now have another irrelevant Birth Year. 29 was on the verge of something. Now 64 is on the verge of something else. But all in the continuum of this time each of us has.

The “success” part is never understood by me.

I made payroll last week, but need a bunch of checks to come in to meet the next. And I dropped off a crew to measure a church, pro bono, yesterday. “Time and Money” is the secular mantra of all profane life, but Mission is the metronome. Time is circumscribed by forces we do not control (our parents’ passion, the beating of our heart). Money is really at the mercy of others. But the force to make things happen was given, or infected, into me from a quietly terrified childhood. It was a Mission Without Portfolio.

That baseline, Mission, is now a word becoming as hackneyed as Beauty. Like all cliches, Beauty and Mission start with a black letter reality of what no one understands, let alone controls: who we are. As dates pile up, the resume gains weight, love should be the frosting that connects and creates every confection, but it’s mystery is confounded by its primal importance. I, no one, earns love – it simply is. Given or it is unknown. I do not choose to love, love chooses me.

But I have known the unloved. It is as inexplicable as the gifts that do not need birthdays, but have to be received to exist. Fear can make any gift a threat.

My inabilities are stepping stones. To what? I certainly do not know more than the Next Thing. And gratitude. The inexplicable grace of being given pretty much everything, is hard to assess in a world of time and money.

12 years ago, after a loss that lost all chance our son’s team to have a season of Record, where those awards, so often impossible for the overwhelming majority of everyone doing anything, would simply not be possible for these dedicated, good, young men – because they failed – the coach said a simple thing.

Failure happens. Loss happens with every win. You are never adequate to your hopes, you can lose, lose, and lose again.

“But you can work.”

‘You can get better.”

“No one can take that from any of us.”

Perhaps my Mission is work.

Hey, Architecture, Check Your Privilege.

August 9, 2019

I am a Boomer Straight White Male, educated in private schools, graduated from an Ivy League School (sorta, Cornell): thus I know from privilege. But I never knew what privilege was until I got it, and then only when I saw others who did not have those privileges, who were not white males in Mid Century. I simply did what I was told, and Voila: I became a Poster Boy for Toxic Masculinity and Unfair Advantage.

What do you do with that? I could degrade my ability and effort, but I knew I kicked it, hard, and was able to do things where my white maleness meant nothing. Without guilt, I have efforted a full pro bono immersion in my office, and a complete disregard for any status of any potential employee or client. We do about 1/3 of our work for whatever the client can afford, about half the time that is no money at all, like the over 100 houses we have done for the local Habitat affiliate, seen above. For those who can pay something, after we start pro bono, the rest of the fees for that 1/3 of my practice are at cost, or less.

And the work has been done by those who are not straight white males, and some that are. We pay our interns, we have never laid anyone off or missed a payroll in 32 years. And we have built 800 things. From $100 a square foot in cost to over $1,000.

But that is not a make up call, that is just “meet, and right so to do” in the words of Thomas Cranmer who wrote, almost 500 years ago, the Prayer Book I read every Sunday

No, the reason I write this next @effortingarchitecture piece is to note that all of these reasonable realities of killing prejudice by simply being diverse in outlook and outcome are not enough.

Architects and our institutions can still perpetrate prejudice and bias in architecture. National press has never been given to 30 years of making those 100 Habitat homes. No, instead national press, this month, in Architect Magazine is given to 2 very quaintly Mod homes made for all good reasons: low or no fee design, making better places for people who cannot afford them, making the best of our common humanity. Those two homes.

Great.

But I know the vast (Vast) majority of these kind of architectural effort to house those who cannot otherwise find a single family home are not quaintly Mod. This lack of “contemporary” design in those houses is because the cliches of Modernist architecture, low/no pitched roofs/overhangs, no trim and esoteric materials either fail too soon or are too expensive to build. Real, non-aesthetic realities, with the exception of the extreme recent failures at the “Do The aright Thing” development in New Orleans are simply unspoken, unknown, presumed lame.

So we, here in New Haven’s Habitat, build with stock trusses, materials, details, and with high strength engineering for resilience, and off-site prefabrication abilities for many components. Unseen good things in incorrect aesthetics designed to fit into the massing and aesthetics of 19th Century Worker Housing. 120 families houses. Including a bunch of Yale student designed and built homes that had to be fully renovated a few years after being done.

So thousands of homes like the ones in the image above get built in any year all over America and the 2 Quaint Mod efforts get lauded by national press:

Why?

The same reason that a profession that is roasting itself over a historic lack of ethnic/gender/class diversity in its professional ranks chose, in this month’s AIA National Newsletter, to laud these Health Care Facilities (which I have also worked on for 30 years)

They are lauded by a jury, because the affirmed, assumed, prejudice of the Correctness of Design means ‘No Not Modernist Need Apply”.

Do not misunderstand: All these projects are Great. All humans are Great.

But 50 years ago, almost all humans in architecture were me. It was incomplete, and it was a lie that I, me, and others of me were the only “Correct” ones. Now, still after more than half of students in architecture school are women, and others are making inroads into participation with extreme effort by everyone involved, Style Correctness is as exclusive as it has ever been in the Mainstream, Deep State: The Swamp of Correct that is Architecture as presented by the media.

Architects and students deserve more than be spoon feed the oredigested “correct” aesthetics. And to simply hear the truth versus the rhetoric.

Look at what Architectural Record calls “ageless”:

A lobby of Modernism so perfected it is pinpointed to the age of Modernism, which is, precisely, an Age. Not a bad one, in fact this is what is needed in the huge money engine of Harbor Yard: massive pretense and assumed cool. But there is precious little but the Modern Canon in their pages, outside of the Advertorials of paid-for exposure of for-profit companies that pay for the clean Modern Truth that excludes any other way of thinking.

Like Fox News stressing their Truth is “Fair and Balanced” or like MSNBC who implore their viewers to “Lean In” to their crusade, there is straight up propaganda via exclusion in the vast majority of what is mostly offered in architectural media, schooling and competitions.

But that is changing, because You are reading this. 30 years ago there were a few outlets and rumors, or an occasional mailer of some aberrant thought. Places like Prickly Mountain Vermont or Taliesin, or Arcosanti could briefly flourish in experimenting with the not-Canon. Not so much, now.

But that might change.

Gay Marriage is not even an issue. The idea of excluding anybody that could be useful to your work because of the way they look or what they believe is just flat stupid. And maybe, just maybe, seeing the Same Old Same Old in a time of exploding media diversity has put a death sentence of Traditional Modernism as an exclusive prejudice.

Maybe.

The Unavoidable Polymath

August 8, 2019

We see, hear, taste, feel, think, speak and act. There is exquisite integration. I see tiny children thinking with forming minds, garbling ideas, moving as they can in response: completely unaware anyone is judging them. In short order the cells have connected, the acts of interaction in the world are now becoming defined, controlled, focused – but the motivations soon include being approved, linked, correct.

That sliding scale between ability and motivation becomes a simple cross: the more we can do, the more we control to obtain approval, and assume more control.

Architecture has long been a place of “Both/And” – meeting the strictures of codes, laws, physical realities of materials, weather, and gravity, and technological methods of electricity, water, air, all swirled together in human control: expressing art, or logic, or history, or innovation, or the designer’s mind: Architecture becomes a fantasy of synthesis – Art & Science.

That synthesis of opportunity is like the toddler’s mind: all open, all compelling, all possible: and life compels prioritization: adhering to those laws,the money to build, but mostly to the mind of the designer.

If the mind is polemical, proving a point, making an argument, expressing a singular will the buildings become objects of message. If buildings make an argument, you cannot argue back: the point is permanent, not open to discussion. And every building always has a coda: “Deal With It.”

The users then change themselves to what another human has made: control is realized.

But buildings are passive. They are simply what we “deal” with. If the users hate it, hate its priorities because they are not the designer, their compliance merely stiffens the hate. However, buildings, like all the things humans do, reflect the humans more than they direct. We use highways, but the impatient speed, the careless crash, the trapped curse. It is simply stating the obvious that the idea of making blocs of rooms to warehouse humans as symbols of habitation floating over the landscape looked compelling in drawings of Mid-Century, but wrecked lives in danger and depression until most of them are getting removed.

But polymath design has more places to register the human context. First, why exile history, thus memory, from what we build?

Why limit materials to an abstract palette, machined to untouchability? Why devalue detail as a feature, a place of delight, versus detailing work that strives to deny materiality.

Why do we start, as architects and consumers of architecture, to lose the joy in experience for the safety of being “correct”? Why lose our humanity to become “serious” architects cleaving to a Canon, adapting a Style?

The same reason the toddler stops laughing. The same reason we look in the mirror before we see others. Click on the Internet to are sure we are living the correct life as seen in the images of Social Media.

You could argue that the New Technology allows us all to extend polymathy into a full, long life of more choices, thoughts, and joys.

Why can’t we find a way to be adults with a toddler’s heart? Let’s start with the way we use buildings.