Design: WILLIAM MCDONOUGH: A Whole New World

The most visionary of today's designers see the earth as a machine for living--and honor nature as a guide to structure The Man Who Wants Buildings to Love Kids

When architectural firms began to compete for the Gap Inc. office complex in San Bruno, Calif., William McDonough saw it as a competition of ideas rather than for a contract. "Our idea," he says, "was that if a bird flew over the building, it would not know that anything had changed." If that sounds like pure eco-nut talk (I almost resist noting that McDonough is for the birds), try the question he puts to potential clients when he undertakes any of his architectural projects: "I ask, 'How do we love all children, all species, all time?'"

Upon hearing him say that,...