I grew up with three brothers in a two-bedroom house in Springfield, Massachusetts. Our parents slept in the front bedroom and the four boys camped out under the dark and fragrant wooden eaves in the unfinished and unheated attic. This left our clever parents with the second ground floor bedroom in the back to use as a nursery, quarantine space for boys with a fever, and mostly what we called the “play-room”. The scene that played out there was me repeatedly filling the room with wooden block cities, followed my older brother Tim waiting for the right moment to run through knocking down all the buildings while shouting “tornado”.

When my Uncle Lefty, and his pal from the toy company Milton Bradley, built by hand a family “camp” on Otis Reservoir in the Berkshires, I was inspired to build something indestructible with their leftover wood – my own backyard cabin, complete with its own kitchen garden. Hence an architectural imagination was born and nurtured in a backyard in the old Yankee mill town nicknamed the “City of Homes”. Remarkably, the first job I had as a summer student intern in 1978 was measuring and doing “as-built” drawings for the residential conversion of Milton Bradley’s post-civil war factory complex of timber structured, six-story brick faced loft buildings in downtown Springfield.

My first home office as an architect was an illegally self-renovated apartment in an old-law tenement building in New York City’s Alphabet City. I partially tore down a wall, built a sleeping loft and located my drafting table underneath. I could expand to the living room for larger competition deadlines. Even though a three-room 300 square foot apartment at $165 a month was paradise for someone who always shared rooms, I was thrilled to find an empty live-work loft in another old brick and timber toy factory in Newark, New Jersey, just a 15-minute PATH train ride from the World Trade Center. Inspired by the feminist architect Susana Torre’s notion of “space as matrix“, the loft became an architectural design studio with a great dance floor, an open kitchen, and a flexible system of moving walls and storage units to configure sleeping nooks and day care.

Today I find myself working at the kitchen table in a converted family cabin on Lake Oscawana, one hour north of my job at Parsons School of Design. When, newly married two years ago, we started to look for an apartment in New York or a house outside the city, a series of accidents, led us to a replica or my childhood extended family camp, within commuting distance to Manhattan. And now I do my homework here filled with rich memories and dreams about a future of eternal returns, looking forward to getting my hands dirty with architectural homework again.

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