Expert Interviews

Travis Price
Name Mr Travis Price 
Organization Name Travis Price Architects

Photo by Kenneth M. Wyner

Position: Architect

Years in the industry: 30

Location: Washington, DC


What are the roots of green design in architecture?

There's been a huge wave since the 1970s of environmental or green architectural design. It's created a renewed language of regional poetry for architects and designers.

What you found in all these early stages of ecological design initiatives were people who wanted authenticity, wanted warmth and tactility. They evoked the clarity of what comes from being in touch with nature and with the hands that actually do the work. We green pioneers were asking, How enduring and authentic can the work be?

Not much has happened since the 1970s in terms of new technology or design, but more importantly, it's become mainstream. Designers like to talk in mythical terms: light, sun versus BTUs and power generation. We have to get people back in touch with the mythology of design, the spiritual psyche that germinates enduring design. Green design is a perfect platform for this endeavor.

What are the core tenets of green design?

Efficiency, authenticity, tactility and spirituality.

Efficiency (waste not, want not). This isn't about tree hugging; it's about not using too many trees too soon. Save your bank account of resources and use them wisely.

Authenticity. We're seeking more poetic complexity from diverse landscapes and cultures, not homogenized simplicity where you see the same exact thing everywhere.

Tactility. It reinvigorates senses and hidden sources in you that you've let atrophy in a fossil-fueled sterility.

Spirituality. It's an overused word at times, like green, but the human psyche, the objective metaphysical world, must be reckoned with daily. The mythical realm exists inside us all and it's timeless. There's an entire ethnosphere of human imagination that's the sum-total of all human experience. It is evoked immensely when you visit and experience diverse cultures weaving their textiles.

What are significant achievements or milestones for this practice?

From an architect's point of view, there are two key achievements in green design. First, designing buildings that consume far less and that are more in tune with nature and with the mythical realm, projects that stir the blood and the spirit. This creates a decisively modern architecture that is conservatively in touch with nature and sacred myths, not nostalgia or sterility.

Second, it's dispelling the more is more myth that comes with excessive consumption. The spreading of consumption is killing off the quality of life for us and only leading to loneliness and alienation. We can't sustain this pursuit of loneliness anymore, growing out further and further. The global impact of sprawl is enormous in terms of energy consumption and aesthetic homogenization.

How is green design reflected in your work?

It's best reflected once you get past reduced energy consumption and bring people back into the warmth of nature's immediate touch, and more importantly, its bigger rhythms.

How do carpets or rugs come into play with sustainable design?

You put people in their new space, having taken care of their climate protection. After that it's like fine clothing. It's the next piece of wrapping ourselves. It's the next layer of architecture, for which you need to have the same approach toward achieving authenticity, tactility and poetic diversity. You want to know that the rug or carpet you're standing on came from nature and artisans in the most direct and original way possible.

What are your general thoughts on the design and production of carpets and rugs?

Real quality is attention to design and careful craftsmanship without undue machine precision. That creates enduring and authentic character in a rug. As well, people should enjoy and embrace imperfection. It's probably one of the most important things. Quality control on handmade items may never be as good as a factory product, but that's often why you want go to remote parts of the world for beautiful rugs of originality.

Why should people be interested in green design?

Green architecture resonates. It's subtle and essential for life. Sadly, we don't know we've lost it until it's gone. Without it you've removed yourself into an isolated world of virtual television and sterile environments. Green design is an extension of you that reflects your relationship with spirit and nature.

Who are other leaders in this field?

Antoine Predock, Amory Lovins, Ed Mazria, Donald Watson, Charles Savitt, Sym Van der Ryn, Peter Calthorpe, Mac Scogin, William McDonough, Stephanie Odegard, Wade Davis, Chris Rainier.

Where can people learn more?

One of the better sources is the American Institute of Architects (AIA), which has a tremendous listing of green activity locally and nationally.

Tell us your favorite websites.

What's your overall perspective on child labor in the carpet industry?

When it is abusive, it must not be tolerated. However, when it is conjoined with proper compensation, personal corporate aid, education and health care, it can be helpful as part of economic and community development. In many ways, the proper balance of care with work opportunities is far more helpful than just blanket aid, or blanket rejection of work. Just and appropriate child labor teaches people to fish, as well as preserve their native traditions. As I've witnessed personally in Nepal and Peru, when children are cared for properly and are part of learning and preserving their cultural heritage through weaving, great strides occur for them and for consumers. I wouldn't try to make them American teenagers per se; weaving is a sacred repository of culture, as well as sustenance for the family. There isn't a magic age for working with your hands necessarily, but there is a necessary responsibility to not abuse their labor and to embellish it with education, cultural preservation, proper payment and healthy conditions.

What is important about GoodWeave's Campaign to End Child Labor?

GoodWeave is critical because they constantly seek and monitor the fine line between cultural growth and unacceptable abuse. They reinforce that there's something coming from the hands and minds of people creating rugs. They encourage us to responsibly touch it, smell it and let it bring art to our feet that's made with fairness and authentic accuracy.