WL: What is Washington’s spirit of place?
TP: Washington is guided by an exquisite sense of democracy. Pluralism should be the most prominent feature here. We’re just now starting to embrace adventure and complexity in our creative architecture. To date, we’ve been mostly a homogenized bureaucrat’s town. The thing that turns people off about Washington is that it’s the world’s largest classic theme park. It’s an ode to neo-traditional architecture, which has been homogenized for resale. The spirit of change, dynamics and multiple opinions are missing. I would not put Washington on the high mark as a great city of architecture; it has four or five great monuments and two or three good buildings. Chicago has hundreds. New York has hundreds. Atlanta is dull but getting interesting. Washington hasn’t gotten started yet. However, I do see potential because the private sector has outgrown the too-safe public sector in which buildings are watered down by selection procedures, committees, excessive regulations and nostalgia for neo-traditional phoniness. If Thomas Jefferson were [in Washington] today, he’d hire whoever could make the most advanced, exciting, complex modern building imaginable.
WL: National Geographic Travel Editor Keith Bellows picked you as one of six thinkers that were changing the world. Heavy stuff.
TP: The first interview was Al Gore, the second was Steve Case. I was in the March issue, which is fantastic. I think its because the book is hitting strong. It’s so timely and people are saying, “Of course! Why hasn’t someone made that clear before?” Well, the book makes it clear.