Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Making Building Great?

Rendering of proposed boarder wall
Hello Everyone:

It is Wednesday and time for the Blogger Candidate Forum.  Today we are going to look at what kind of building spree President-elect Donald Trump.  Over the course of the campaign, PEOTUS Trump began his campaign with the announcement that he plans to build a wall along southern United States boarder and getting Mexico to pay for it.  Not just any wall, ...a great wall.  He made this pronouncement in the lobby of the Trump epicenter, the gilded Breccia Prenice marble.  Bragging to the assembled press,

Nobody builds walls better than me, believe me.  And I'll build them very inexpensively.

The Guardian's Oliver Wainwright recently speculated on what we can expect from the developer-turned-President of The United States in his article "Trumpitecture: what we can expect from the billionaire cowboy builder."  Will we see more gilt and marble buildings? Shall we have a look.

Trump Tower from street level
New York City, New York
  Oliver Wainwright comments, "The billionaire real estate tycoon and president-elect has made a career out of building inexpensive walls and filling them with very expensive apartments."  However, an impenetrable wall, intended to keep out drugs, crime and rapists, accentuated with a big beautiful door, is in the works.

During the course of the campaign, the American public was treated to blustery policy announcements with little detail.  Said wall grew in height along with his swelling campaign-from 30 to 55 feet; the budget also ballooned from $8 to $12 billion.  Independent budget estimates put the cost of the wall closer to $25 billion and require three times the amount of concrete used in Hoover Dam.  Not that is an issue for PEOTUS, who insisted that his wall would have

beautiful everything...just perfect.  Maybe someday they'll call it the Trump Wall.  So I have to make sure it's beautiful, right?

Since his election victory, his plans for a beautiful wall have been scaled back to a fence.  Mr. Wainwright opines, "If it's anything like the other edifices that bear his name, in 20ft high bronze letters, beauty might be be stretching it..."  The shiny golden surfaces that telegraph luxury masks a dubious product.

The lobby of Trump Tower
New York City, New York
Oliver Wainwright quotes late-The New York Times architecture critic Herbert Muschamp's criticism of PEOTUS's self-name Towers, "Trump's towers,"

don't quite register as architecture...[but instead stand as] signs of money, status, power [like the] diamonds, furs, yachts and other token of the deluxe life enjoyed in Marbella.

The thing that Mr. Muschamp found objectionable about PEOTUS's tastes was not the

  desire for attention, for the best, the most, the tallest, the most eye-catching [but] his failure to realise these desires creatively in the architectural medium.

For the man who carried on about building big beautiful structures, the thing has turned as yuge as he promised.  Let us have a look at some examples.

The Commodore Hotel
New York City, New York
PEOTUS Trump's first Manhattan project, completed in 1980, rehabilitating the Commodore Hotel, a grand brick and limestone hotel, set the standard for future developments.  The hotel, built in 1919, was cocooned inside a shell of chrome, bronze (or gold depending on the time of day), ornamenting it with the "sparkly signifiers of glitz and glamour."

Mr. Wainwright writes, "Just like his policies, Trump's real estate projects are often characterized by bold claims that don't quite stand up-beginning with their height."  He points out that PEOTUS frequently inflates the height of his buildings: "the '90-storey' Trump World has 72 floors, while apartment in Trump Tower begin at 'floor 30,' despite there just being 19 commercial  stories below them."  The president-elect said, quite proud of his marketing magic trick,

They like to have apartments that have height, the psychology of it.

Trump International Hotel and Tower
Chicago, Illinois
 The Trump International Hotel and Tower in Chicago, Illinois was intended as the tallest building in the world when plans for it were announced in 2001.  However, in the wake of 9/11, it was quickly scaled back-despite PEOTUS's bluster about not being cowed by the terrorists.  In a sharp elbow to the ribs, Mr. Wainwright writes, "It now stand like a stunted Mini-Me version of Dubai's Burj Khalifa (designed by the same architect) at less than half the height of its Arabian cousin."

To compensate for its shortcomings, PEOTUS attempted to make up the difference with the size of his sign, his name spelled out in back-lit stainless steel letters that stretch out half the length of a football field, sprawling across the 16th floor.  Chicago Mayor Rahm Emmanuel called it tasteless and went about changing the city's sign regulations to prevent repeat vulgarity.  The serial tweeter that he is, PEOTUS was quick to defend his creation.  Quoting the tweet, Mr. Wainwright writes,

Before I bought the site, the Sun Times had the biggest, ugliest sign Chicago has ever seen...Mine is magnificent and popular. 

Magnificently large and unpopular

Trump Tower
Istanbul, Turkey

The popularity of theTrump brand-a euphemism for "Superior Quality, Detail and Perfection," according to the company website-has taken a real beating during the long presidential campaign cycle.  In Dubai, where the Trump organization is currently building a golf course, a large billboard featuring PEOTUS swinging a golf club was removed following his announcement to ban Muslims from entering the United States.  Sales of his home decor line (really?) were also suspended.

Istanbul, where twin conjoined titling Trump towers loom 150 meters over the city, prompted President Tayyip Erdoğan to declare that,

the ones who put that brand on their building should immediately remove it.

Before President Erdoğan made his comments, the $300 million development did not provide the return investors were promised.

Trump Tower hotel
Toronto, Canada
The litany of inflated expectations, followed by legal give and take, are repeated around the world.  Oliver Wainwright reports, "The Trump Ocean Club in Panama was plagued by delays. By the time the...edifice was completed in 2011, there was a glut of high-end apartments, so prices were slashed and management company, claiming it exceeded budgets and used its fees to cover hotel costs."  PEOTUS is currently seeking $75 million in damages.

The Trump Tower hotel, topped with a reference to the man himself-also opened lated and entered a market flooded with five-star hotels.  It was the subject of a lawsuit brought by buyers who claim they were mislead by marketing materials; a local developer is trying to remove the Trump name from the project.  Lesson in each case, never take a person at his word and always read the fine print.

Trump SoHo
New York City, New York
The story remains the same in PEOTUS's hometown of New York City, where he uncharacteristically settled a lawsuit initiated by the buyers of his $450 million SoHo development.  The buyers claimed "that they had been defrauded by exaggerated claims."  Naturally, PEOTUS admitted no wrongdoing.  Citing The New York Times, Oliver Wainwright reports, "a separate lawsuit stated that the project was 'developed with the undisclosed involvement of convicted felons and financing from questionable sources in Russia and Kazakstan.'"

The litany goes on, from Rio de Janeiro to Azerbaijan, where plans for more Trump towers have encountered obstacles and recent records reveal that his controversial golf course in Scotland have posted losses of nearly £26 million.  In short, President-elect Donald Trump may not be the great deal maker that he fancies himself to be.  What does feel like to be on the wrong side of his supposed fantastic deal making skills.

Trump National Golf Club
Photograph by Peter Oberc LLC
New York

To get an answer to this question, Mr. Wainwright spoke with architect Andrew Tesoro, who was commissioned to design the Trump National Golf Club in upstate New York.  The process left Mr. Tesoro on the edge of bankruptcy.  He was motivated by PEOTUS's famous enthusiasm and the scope of the project quickly tripled in size-along with the attending workload-but additional compensation did not follow.

By the time the golf club was completes, Mr. Tesoro amassed unpaid invoiced totaling $140,000.  After endless requests for payment and meetings with Trump associates, Mr. Tesoro finally met face-to-face with PEOTUS, who supplied "...a textbook lesson in Trump's trademark cocktail of charm and ruthlessness."

Andrew Tesoro said,

He told me that we built the most spectacular clubhouse in the world...I was the finest architect he'd ever met, he was going to make this this project the best-known building of its type in the world, the next project was going to give me the opportunity to recoup any money that'd lost-and, just because I'm such a nice guy, he was going to offer me $25,000 to go away.

Andrew Tesoro initially declined the offer so PEOTUS's attorney got involved.  Mr. Tesoro continued,

The attorney told me quite direct that, if I sued, I would probably get all the money I was owed, but that it was his job to make it take so long and cost me so much, that it wouldn't be worth it.

AJA Infrastructure onpage
This raises questions of how PEOTUS plans to run his proposes $500 billion project, something that has construction companies dreaming of tax credit driven contracts.  In his victory speech, President-elect Trump declared,

We are going to fix out inner cities and rebuild our highways, bridges, tunnels, airports, schools, hospitals...We're going to rebuild our infrastructure, which will become, by they way second to none.

The spineless American Institute of Architecture was quick to pledge its support for the new administration, writing "that its 89,000 members 'stand ready to work' with Trump on his grand building plan."  As it turned out the AIA forgot to consult with its 89,000 members, many of whom rightly pointed out that the incoming president's bigoted statements do not square with the AIA's "diversity and inclusion" (dubious) goals.

The Architect's Newspaper, pointed that architects "who contribute to the 'proposed border wall or its attendant detention centres, federal and private pensions, and militarised infrastructure' would be perpetuating inequality and the 'racist patriarchy of Trump's ideology.'"

In an open letter to PEOTUS, architect and critic Michael Sorkin wrote,

Trump's well-documented history of racial discrimination, tenant harassment, stiffing creditors, evasive bankruptcies, predilection for projects of low social value-such as casinos-and his calculated evasion of the taxes that might support our common realm are of a piece with his larger nativist, sexist, and racist political project...

Mr. Sorkin concludes:

We call upon the AIA to stand up for something beyond a place at the table where trump's cannibal feast will be served.  Let us not be complicit in building Trump's wall but band together to take it down!

Since then, the AIA has issued a gutless video apology, admitting their statement was "tone deaf-" while making sure it stocks up on the latest security fencing and gilded glass catalogue.

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