“Why don’t architects get into heaven?” Alex Krieger asked as he tossed a peanut into the air. He tried to catch it in his mouth but badly misjudged its lazy flight path. It bounced off the bridge of his Gucci glasses.
“Because Jesus was a carpenter,” Jeff Tumlin answered, drawing scattered grunt-laughs. He rubbed his eyes beneath his Oliver Peoples glasses. It was an old joke, and it had been a long day for Tumlin and Krieger and the other members of the so-called Dream Team, a dozen of the finest minds in the country regarding urban planning and transportation matters.
They’d come to this ranch-style house in Arlington eager to collaborate with fellow bold-faced names on a massive project: redesigning the Trinity Parkway. But 18 hours later, the only thing on which they’d managed to agree was that Mark Simmons may be an expert in environmental design, but he was lousy at ordering a pizza. Pineapple, anchovies, and sport peppers?
The dining room where they had been holed up was filled with the flotsam and jetsam of a college all-nighter. Pizza boxes were stacked in the middle of the table—seemingly randomly, but on closer inspection clearly meant to evoke the Habitat 67 model community in Montreal. The whiteboard at the head of the table was empty save for a finished game of Hangman. Elizabeth Macdonald had correctly guessed “Baron Georges-Eugène Haussmann’s renovation of Paris.” That was the last bright moment, but it had happened several hours earlier and had nothing to do with their assignment.
Their mood had been icy since then, beginning when Alan Mountjoy called John Alschuler “Posh Spice” after he overheard him on a phone call with David Beckham regarding the soccer stadium they were trying to build in Miami. Clearly stung, Alschuler popped out one of the lenses of his Paul Smith spectacles while cleaning them too aggressively.
Time was running short. Ignacio Bunster-Ossa folded his Persol glasses and put them into his shirt pocket before deciding, yes, to address the room.
“So, okay, at my improv class the other night,” Bunster-Ossa said, “we played this game called Yes, And. Basically, someone says something and the next person adds to it. Maybe we could try that?”
“I guess it couldn’t hurt,” Larry Beasley said. “I’ll start with something easy: how about we make room for a bike lane?”
“Yes, and a big landscaped median,” Simmons said.
“Yes, and the median should have only native Texas plants,” Tumlin said.
“Uh-huh, yes, and a series of connected ponds,” Timothy Dekker said. Everyone was now standing.
“Yes, and it’s not a road at all, but more like a path,” Macdonald said.
“Yes, like something carved out by nature itself!” Beasley yelped, erasing the Hangman game and beginning to sketch out a rough design. The door next to the whiteboard opened, and in stepped the home’s owner, Michael Morris, transportation director for the North Central Texas Council of Governments.
“Well, would you look at that,” he said. “You guys cracked it.”
“Yeah,” Beasley said, “we’re pretty excited about—”
“A meandering, four-lane road,” Morris said. “The perfect way to start everything off—until we get the money for the big version, of course.” He winked.
“But that’s not—that isn’t what we have talked about at all.”
“ ’Course it is,” Morris said, removing a stack of checks from his suit coat pocket and setting them atop the pizza-box Habitat 67. “Says it right here.”
Beasley took off his Warby Parker glasses and looked around the room. Bunster-Ossa met his gaze and held it for a moment, then shrugged. Beasley grabbed the checks and started passing them out.
“Now,” Morris said with a big smile, “who’s ready for some of my famous icebox pie?”