FROM THE ARCHIVE: One word architects use all the time is place. Good designs, we hear, should relate to place. Buildings should be placed in context, an artful façade can help define place, and so on. In my experience as both critic and professional colleague of architects, the same applies to their public personas.

Like its leading restaurants and hotels, the American capital’s architecture is expensive and dull. Every note composing Washington’s new buildings is fine—the best limestone and marble, hammered copper roofs, and exotically tinted high-tech glass—but there is no architectural music here.