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Welcome to Saved by Design

January 15, 2019

New Stuff:

In Random Stuff:  The Truth


In Left To Myself : Keeping Score

In Not (As) Fat: One Meal A Day

In Finding Home: what…where

In The Rules: Between Rocks & Hard $$$

In Silence In Spring : Astonishing…

In Days ’till Spring : 40 Days


January 14, 2019

Recent Work

Progress in Greenwich


 The outdoor chapel at Incarnation Camp in Ivoryton, CT

Click here to read about the project.



CEPHAS Housing 25 Years Ago in Yonkers NY

Click here to read about the project.



In Common Edge: Why “Zaha Hadid Activewear” Feels Off-Brand

In Mockingbird: The season is over, but our Christmas trees are still dead…

In Common Edge: Why Do Architects Remain Obsessed with Flat Roof?

In The New Haven Register: The Yale Armory is No More

In The New Haven Register: The ‘Story of Church Street South’ in a Yale exhibit

In Covenant: The Next Church

In Mockingbird: Aaron Rodgers Failing at Family

In Common Edge: When Buildings Are Shaped More By Code Than Architects

In Mockingbird: The Canon That Crushed Richard Meier

In Common Edge: The Kids are Alright: How the Great Recession Shaped This Generation’s Entry into Architecture

In Mockingbird: A Message From Jesus

In Common Edge: Life, Death and the End of the 20th Century Architecture

In Common Edge: Architectural Criticism That’s Not Just For Architects

In Mockingbird: The Undeserved Vacation: The New Sabbath

In Mockingbird: Bedside and the Lord’s Prayer

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

In Mockingbird: The Gift of Profanity

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

In Mockingbird: Violence & Faith

In Mockingbird: …Mistakes Were Made…

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

In Common Edge: Architecture Ignores History at its Own Peril

In Common Edge: Why Homes are the Original Architecture

In Mockingbird: A Letter of Recommendation

In Mockingbird: Nothing Means as Much

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



On WTNH News:  Madison Architect Sheds Light on Solar Solution for Homeowners

On Common Ground with Annette Ross:  She asked “Where is Architecture?”, I answered

On HGTV:  Mercedes Home Diaries       Password: mercedes


The Age of Aesthetics – the triumph of “what” over “why”

December 29, 2018

Aesthetics are ever with us. Every intellectual decision has aesthetic origins and outcomes: but aesthetics are the antithesis of reason. What we feel, love, hate at the moment of perception is where aesthetics live, the rest is rationalization and understanding of what we sense.

Google puts it simply:

This week we are leaving “The Holidays”: in New England many, if not most, have left organized religion in this generation. The reality of professed, organized Faith, is becoming irrelevant to more and more people. But our deep devotion to the aesthetics of Christmas is as deep as if the entire culture was going to church every week. Aesthetics have triumphed over meaning to create a Holiday Culture devoid of why it was ever created. Just go to Starbucks and hold The Cup.

I think we are in an emerging Era of Aesthetics: I am not talking about “style” or “fad” or “hip”: our phones, this IPad, our cars, even every social condition is now linked to everything we humans have ever known by The Internet. This immersion in the “what” not only suppresses “why” beyond instantly available factoids, it also enhances the power and place of aesthetics to the point of obsession.

This is not about rational thought, it is about reaction. There are no values judged in these currents that are evolving before us, so outrage at these thoughts would be misplaced. The word “aesthetic” to describe the basis of any cultural reality is not a positive judgment on the beauty of anything: the word simply describes a distinct realm of consciousness: I think it is the right lobe of our brain that feels, while the left side plans, evaluates and judges.

We are feeling more than we are evaluating – more and more with every day.

We have always valued aesthetics. We unelected a potential president on the basis a “visual” – a raw aesthetic gut response:

Before that, when our culture had spent a full generation recovering from the worst carnage in the planet’s history, a “new” set of haircuts catalyzed the next generation’s impulse to go beyond safety to expression: the “Mop Top” embodied the beginnings of a new, less controlled, aesthetic outlook:

Now we are reaping the fruits of the full shift beyond Mop Top. Ten years ago the immaculate aesthetics of one candidate were far more important to most than the experience of another: Barack Obama became iconic. Despite initially having a full congress behind him, less was done in his eight years in office than the extraordinary impact of his aesthetic realization.

History repeated itself eight years later, as the most pungently aesthetic and anti-intellectual presidential candidate in history (or at least since Andrew Jackson) kinda sorta beat arguably the most robotic and intellectually defendable candidate we have ever had offered to us. The thoughtless spouts of Donald Trump meant less than his TV show persona and avowed distinction from an intellectually formed, media molded, talking sound byte. The alternative of a fully formed calculation was not valuable enough for enough people in the right places to triumph over the aesthetic projection of Donald Trump..

Now the winner is simply trying to do all the “what”’s he promised, in the oafish base temper he has aways had, and was known for 30 years, and his undeniable aesthetics of mangled orange malaprops and pandering makes his aesthetics fully toxic that those who hate them – and fulfill the hopes of those who elected him, a full two years after the election.

But these are obvious measures of aesthetic triumph. There are many cultural images that, to me, evidence this new Age of Aesthetics.

A border wall is an aesthetic barrier against fear, a wall is probably better than an SUV of ICE Agents roaming a ridge line, but it is more image than fix. But to those who cannot abide the noxious aesthetics of our current president the wall is cataclysmic: insane, meritless.

Aesthetic reactions are instant, devoted and absolute, regardless of what is being reacted to.

Think smoking. Outlawing a poison in every way except use has narrowed tobacco to the status of stupid and deadly. So no smoking in public spaces, federally financed apartments, in parks, on any media. Smoking is evil.

But its simulation, vaping, is also relegated to extreme derision despite the fact that it has no “second hand” impact, no smell, no cancer, no health consequences. But the toxic aesthetics of smoking translate instantly to vapor, and it must be condemned.

Unless it is weed. Marijuana smoking is being embraced as aggressively as vaping is being rejected. Why? The aesthetics of the Mop Top countercultural era finds hypocrisy in allowing the clear danger of drinking while outlawing the ambiguously hazardous brain deadening of dope. So legalizing marijuana became “the cannabis industry”. But it is (mostly) smoking, which is aesthetically deemed evil.

Intellectually there is no reason to outlaw harmless simulation of a deadly act (vaping by adults) and no reason to allow an outlawed gateway drug (smoking dope) except aesthetics. Reason is not at issue, just what we feel.

Babies are beauty. But when is a baby a human and not an unnecessary temporary internal organ that can be removed? A recent court in Pennsylvania ruled that a mother’s drug abuse during pregnancy rendering a new born in need of a two week post natal detox was not a crime because the preborn are not human. Yet.

Intellectually our laws trust the act of abortion to mothers, aesthetically the image of an addicted newborn is loathsome. But one follows the other.

Guns are simply unnecessary – you can live without them, and most do. But many love them, and all the aesthetics of empowerment and freedom their owners embody. A few of those guns kill innocents. But the aesthetics of gun love have, so far, trumped the intellectual value we apply to things like car registration.

Marriage is simply aging out of our cultural drift. Sex is becoming as unsanctioned as any activity. But age and consent are revealed as overwhelming issues – ‘“Me Too” was the collateral devastation of Mop Top Free Love – but, in truth marriage, by any definition, has nothing to do with children, families or much beyond the recognition of love. So, in the aesthetic reaction of joy at union, gay marriage has an enormous impact on a place (marriage) where most simply do not care.

There is no reasoning with change. The inevitability of Artificial Intelligence may simply supplant our left lobes with a rational backstop of our fully shared civilization’s data. The coming explosion of the way we live and perceive the world may make these evolutions seemed fully inconsequential.

But aesthetics as a basis for living creates a rationale that manifest the validity of Donald Trump being the President of the United States. Is that what we want?


December 24, 2018


House churches were the first places of Christian worship before Roman Emperor Constantine recognized the faith: paralleling that, worship happened in the early Puritan homes until the second generation of Christians began to build “Meeting Houses” 

Now, those who go to a separate place to worship are dwindling in New England: BUT the secular flood of THE HOLIDAYS overwhelms our homes as a culture. Huge dinners, endless parties, decorations that completely control many homes for two months, or more, scream at a season becoming detached from its initial reason for being (paralleling the early designation of Christmas Day as a celebratory link to the existing pagan recognition of greater light post winter solstice in the Western Hemisphere). 

What is the reason we remake our homes to celebrate simulated sacred moments our culture is running away from? Do new cars with huge ribbons set upon them replace our instincts of Hope in The New Year? Are we simply worn out by 9 month’s grind as the farmer was, and simply Explode in Joy upon the end of drudgery: or?

Why do we bring the Sacred into our Secular homes? Then? Now? Will We Continue To in the Advancing Secular Age?

As we clean up wrappings, digest feasts and decommission the elaborations of our homes extreme Holiday Decorations, what does it mean ?Joining us is Richard Mammana. Richard is 39, has two daughters, 5 and 7, 6’1”, and is currently reducing sodium intake. (he also serves on the staff of the Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church in the ecumenical and interreligious office, and he does celebrate Christmas.)

Then Meg Botteon who is a college textbook editor, but perhaps of greater relevance to the topic is that her birthday is on Christmas Day. Her parents were aggressively secular, and she spent my happiest Christmases far from home among friends (or “family of affinity”). 

Then William Hosley who is a cultural resource development and marketing consultant, social media expert, historian, writer, and photographer. He is passionate about local history and historic preservation and has developed a deep attachment to dozens of places worth caring about. He was formerly Director of the New Haven Museum and Connecticut Landmarks ,where he cared for a chain of historic attractions. Prior to that, as a curator and exhibition developer at Wadsworth Atheneum, Bill organized major exhibitions including The Great River: Art & Society of the Connecticut Valley (1985), The Japan Idea: Art and Life in Victorian America (1990), and Sam & Elizabeth: Legend and Legacy of Colt’s Empire (1996)., that spawned the Coltsville National Park. As an expert in heritage tourism, Bill has studied, lectured and advised museums and heritage destinations around the country. Bill has also served as a content specialist for PBS, BBC and CPTV film documentaries. 


December 19, 2018

“It’s RIGHT, RIGHT Cross 1-14, on set – ON SET”


I clap, with all the others, snap around and get to the line.

Where am l?

With no thought, movement and sound and pain explode as bodies launch, careen, collide, fly by. I am driven into the Buffalo mud. Hard.

I pop up.

Run back.

No gain.

I look ahead. A face I had not seen in 60, no 70, years looks in my eyes smiling. “Well that sucked!” We all laugh, bend low, pull in, looking at him. 

The smell for a moment is nauseating. I see the guy next to me – has relieved himself, again, in his pants. I know it is “again” I know, but I do not know him, or where I am.

“OK OK, LETS GO – RIGHT 2-45 Z Counter, Duo – you have to get the backer if he comes – On 1 ON 1 – BREAK”

The voice barks his gibberish and we tense awaiting his count

This time the sounds are deafening. Screams, yelps, the kind of human noises made when bad things happen. 

I take the rocker step, deep, pivot and a mass to my left blows by the tackle but it’s RIGHT, RIGHT and I have Inside Responsibility.

How did I know that?

Amid Snapping Bangs and claps of noise, I push it, come into the guy ahead, recognize him from 1972: he, as he had before, comes under and pops me up, I drop to a knee and grab his jersey, hard, he follows me down, on top of me, and I feel the center brush against me, then the screaming whistle.

“Dick! You got it man!” 

“LETS GO LETS GO” we gather to the center, breathing, some wheezing, hard. Blood is running down my arm. Is it mine?

For a second it is silent, I am with myself, nowhere, but here, now. I was, where? just before. Lying down. Lighter. I could not focus.

I know I was somewhere but where am I….

It does not matter, nothing matters, we have the first down, we can breath while the chains move. Someone spits hard before me. A loud belch and fart made everyone laugh, and look up. “God, you are a disgusting pig!” Says the running back who I last saw in 1979 at the football banquet in Branford.

I see the haze of fall, a tiny, but huge crowd standing away. Laughter. ‘BLITZ BLITZ BLITZ’ gets yelled at us from a coach with a mustache as we sprint to the line, and to my right is the man who coached my son looking me in the eye, “YOU GOT INSIDE INSIDE”

I know what he means..


The snap, we pop, hard, it’s pass, so I hit and recoil – left leg back on my toes, down, as the safety, – from Cheshire? – is screaming, running at the gap to my left, but the roll is right, I let him go, get smashed by the tackle before me, who goes no farther, and somehow, behind me, I see the running back crosses to chip the screaming safety away as the quarterback throws an incomplete pass.

Rolling up, my left hips hurts for the first time in 70 years, the same deep twinge I forgot about, until now. Gimping over to the ring of men others look up ‘

‘Shake it off – Shake it off” 


My son’s coach murmers close, “You OK?” I nod, We squat. The sear of pain blurs my vision of the mud below, sweat pouring down my face, stinging my right eye, and I see some tape, blood and a gum wrapper and feel better.


We clap and pop as one, I see those before me eyes wide, some on a knee, some tattooed, others in high tops, one does not have a face mask. But it’s Toddalink – we look at each other through the same double bar helmets and retrofitted “U” guards above our eyes – below our orange helmets –

“Sorry to hear, that you…”

“It’s OK, Cap, I am gonna kick yer ass,”


We both laugh, hard…

It is a sweep, I have to pull, right (WHY ARE WE SO RIGHT HANDED?) Gulping air, I drop hard pivot, here the center, who coached at Yale for 22 years, make a squealing sound as he blew up the surprised tackle who thought I was hitting him,

I scramble out, trying to stay low, and the outside linebacker is breaking inside me, I get on him, and push, pump my legs, let go a wad of snot in my nose, he punches my side, grabbing by pads, but I ride him, hard, hard, hard


Something blasts me into the air and I end up full face in the large puddle outside the sidelines…

A familiar voice, laughs, as I look up, “Well, That didn’t go well!” I look up the field, and look back, I respond “first down” I smile…

“love you”

“love you”

10 yards away, a man with glasses, and a cap looks sideways at me, with a slight smile – my heart, beating hard, stops –

“I saw that.”


As I turn, I see another man in a raincoat, farther away, far away, wearing a hat, not smiling, staring at me, then draw on a cigarette…he was 30 something, but..


Heaving men come together, one voice gets deeply low in our ring, “See what happens when you crackers block a little?” I had not seen Ivan, in well, a lifetime… – I respond

“I thought there was no justice for a black man in this world”

The group explodes in laughter, including Boo Boo. What? I had not seen him for, forever, – the shortest tackle I ever saw, benched over 400, coached him for 4 years –

“Hey, coach” he murmurs…I nod.


Play BANGS, I block down, flat step right, as I had done 5,000 Times before, 80 years ago? As expected, the Tackle comes into me trying to follow Boo Boo, but I get in his way,

Then the sound of things hitting so hard that you feel it happen, cries of pain, one of joy, I get wrecked, again, but we get some yards…the trap worked, again…

And Again, And Again, And Again.

We come out of being together each time, I see different faces, uniforms, voices. New people who are old people, all of us different ages. In different uniforms. But the same. The same. The mist was all about us, heavy, cool, the sounds were quiet until deafening, music maybe, the laughter, often…

Wait, the mist is Love.

I feel it, fully, I look around, we all feel it. We are it.

Amid the cursing, blood, sweat I feel all those around me. Even on the sidelines. Is that music? Even my brother, who is taking pictures.

We are together. Again. For the first time.

Wait, no.

Wait. Shit. No.

c’mon…,…this is heaven….


in my ear “This is heaven….huddle up.”

Advent Not

December 8, 2018

Christians and their secular simulators are in a frenzy. It is Advent. As in “almost happening!”. The “it” is the birthday of our Lord & Savior, Jesus Christ,

The simulators are not down with that. The Christ part of Christmas is kinda iffy for more and more of us, And that discomfort, despite my all-in faith in the undeniable reality of God (in fact Jesus) in my life – despite my best efforts – is legitimate. 

There are many totally pissed at the perpetration of religion being pushed  into their lives. They are sick of our society, however secular, co-opting their humanity into a matrix of myth and hypocrisy during this Consumer Fest. The creation of manufactured solemnity and/or joy in the form of ritual loses symbolism for many.

Worst is the “Holiday Season”. But if you are not a Christian, what is the holiday, actually? Ancient non-Christians knew so little that the loss of light was so scary, the fire of life-giving light going out, that when the earth wobbled back to an angle that allowed more light into the Western Hemisphere, humanity made every year start there.

So the idea that more light is good got miniaturized into 4 candles, each adding its light each week, where more human-made light was lit as more natural light waned, the Christian world made it into a greater symbolic hope of waiting for the birth of Jesus. The entire part of the Bible that recounted the person that had no human father being born of his human mother was woven into a whole month of ritual and symbol, dominating Christianity for an entire internally buttressing construction of directed anticipation.

Children love the legitimizing of greed, people love the music, the traditions, the breaking of pattern, and just an excuse to show love. All good.

But it’s not His birthday.

It is in the spring. By all accurate research and measure, the date this divinely conceived (in any way you want to interpret it) human came into this world is in three or four months. We, the other humans, control the presentation of His Divinity in a staged carefully crafted manipulation of our common love of light, and depression over its absence, that, to me, trivializes the overwhelming importance of who He was.

So we in the church-going world are mostly in denial. It’s going to be Christmas. We kill a tree, buy stuff and create a four week anticipatory “season”.

In my own life, a fully flawed family made all the flailing efforts at celebrating absurdly sad.

There was no happiness to manifest in any sense. That happiness did not exist for deep and complex reasons over several generations and made the desperate gloss of “The Holidays” weirdly perverse to the sad. My church is having a service that recognizes this misfit in so many lives.

If you are born into want, pain or fear, the fact we “should” be in the ‘Christmas Spirit” only makes things worse.

Manifest in this application of 4 candles, any number of theatric devices, carefully designed images, performed music all are produced to build to a birthday that should be celebrated (even if just in godless historic recognition) but simply did not happen on any day near Dec. 25.

Nothing is as real in my life as the love of God. Maybe that is why the pathetic patronizing of all of our humanity into a prefabricated complex based on the bait and switch of Solstice for Virgin Birth annoys me.

The Game

December 5, 2018

“They were marveling at their newly refreshed home over Thanksgiving. They are in the discovery mode we were in when we spent our first year in our new home. Seeing all your surprises, and chortling contentedly over them.”


So said a friend and client this morning about the interior I show here, where a lifetime or two in and existing space is made music with the forest of things those lives found. A home embraces the past, present and future of humans – via the episodic effort of others.

When we come together, not out of love, but of mutual utility, shared mission, getting things done, the effort often overrides the outcome. I look back and I see, now, many moments frozen in their time.

In the intensity of creation the joy is so deep it is often unnoticed. Untalking framers create a thing we draw, like these today, below. We all live a life that makes something out of unrelated bits. They make life from the smaller lives of the things they combine: like every life, but more joyous, to me, in some things.


In every team, every orchestra, class or institution, often families – the combination and creation of things is an effort of unknown exultation. A son played football, as I did. We both only begin to fully understand the miraculous loss of fear in becoming more than outprselves when playing was done. Another was in many orchestras – like his brother no more; and the memory of the unification in mission becomes evident in its absence.

The overwhelming connection and unspoken devotion is not assumed: it just is. The miracle of completely distinct things – humans, places, instruments, tools, sound, space, stuff all are made to be brought together, and are incoherent in their beauty until they are done.

Beauty in creation is lost on the creators, until they can look, see, hear, remember – and know it was not just effort, it was realization.

Heaven is a foolish focus. It is hope, but it simply is not here or now. Just like Hell. Anything we cannot disprove is possible, but why should I spend a minute about thinking of playing again, when I would be dead in one play? But I do. Everyone who has done these things, does.

Flashbacks of joy get more starting when the joy remembered is more distant, But dreams are as real as heaven is not in our lives.  Maybe heaven is that joy we cannot have. The continuous, unresolved effort that combines hope into making something. No age, no names, no money – just effort.

Playing, making, doing together: with no world to judge, grade, laud or troll. Just the effort, together, forever.

I know, stupid.

But without the memory of meaning we have no hope that life is sustainable. Beauty is the spice, but when it is ours, we feast upon it. Yesterday and tomorrow do not matter. Unlike encountering a result that is beautiful: a baby, a view, spring water, love, the joy of beauty in our common effort has a meaning that is lost until it is found.

Perhaps the silence of my youth in a group of folk joined in fear and anger made these things more special for me. But my joy in the making, revealed by its outcome, seems to be part of all of us.