Adrian Smith, 73, is founder of Chicago’s Adrian Smith + Gordon Gill Architecture. The firm has designed the world’s tallest building in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, and the world’s tallest residential building, New York’s Central Park Tower, due in 2020. He spoke with Marc Myers.

One of my first memories was getting lost. I was 4 or 5 and we lived in San Clemente, Calif. My parents dropped me off at a friend’s house, and when we were done playing, I marched out the door and started walking home. Fortunately, friends of my parents...

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