Episode 7: Blueprints, Construction, and Christian values: A Conversation with Architect Duo Dickinson
Duo Dickinson is an architect who lives in Madison, Connecticut. He’s a graduate of Cornell and has had his own architectural practice since 1987. (His website is here, and includes his full resume, projects, writings, contact info, etc.) Duo is licensed in 10 states, has received more than 30 awards and honors; he is a book author and contributing writer or editor to many publications and journals; he teaches and he serves on design juries; he is a popular guest, host, or co-host of broadcasts including radio and podcasts; and he has worked for years with various non profits including religious institutions. He is also an active and involved member of Trinity Episcopal Church on the Green in New Haven.
In the wider Episcopal Church in Connecticut, he serves on its governing Mission Council, its property committee, and on the task force overseeing the Annual Convention resolution, “Assessing our resources for God’s Mission,” which is currently engaging in a needs assessment. In the even wider faith community, he’s part of Mockingbird, writing for their website and presenting at their conferences.
His emphasis over the years has been on residential houses, so we started by talking about his home in Madison. “It captures the essence of why I have a family, why I’m an architect, why I even write about it, because it’s deeply human,” he says. “The connection between homes and humanity is essentially cultural in America … but it has deep meaning when you make your own home. ” He believes that the home is a spiritual extension of a human being.
Duo has a long career of working with Habitat for Humanity and other organizations working with the homeless, serving on boards and receiving lifetime awards. He talks about how his faith informed his decision to get and stay involved. “Making things” is part of who he is, he explained, and when they asked, he said yes. Organizations such as Habitat are the “ground zero” of one of the essential human needs, he said.
“There’s shelter, food, and clothing and the shelter part is every bit as important as eating and clothing yourself, and unless there are people essentially do it [the architectural work] for nothing, they get what they can; they don’t get what they deserve.” He talk about the values involved in the work.
Duo has also designed and built sacred space for summer camp chapels, churches, synagogues. When the Episcopal Church in Connecticut moved its administrative offices and chapel out of a three-story mansion into leased space in a former factory building, he drew the designs, adhering to values of openness, flexibility, and accountability. So we talked with him about how institutions manifest their values to the world through their buildings, and the relationship between the architect and the client.
Duo talks about how he brings his faith into his work. “The element of Christianity in my work is the essential realization is that I’ve earned none of it and that everything has been given to me, 100%. If the heart’s not beating, I’m not doing this.” He shares a recent health incident that underscored this.
Because more and more churches are struggling with the ongoing expense of maintaining old buildings, we asked directly: Does a faith community need a building? Check out his answer!