An Architectural and Literary Defense of Trump — Part 1

Trump Tower Mumbai

Trump Tower Mumbai

Trump’s buildings are gaudy.

An Architectural tour of Donald Trump’s gaudy ass skyscrapers.

Before Donald Trump signed up for the presidential race, he signed his name to buildings. Lots of buildings. Sure, presidential candidates have owned real estate before. But no other candidate has been such an ostentatious developer of a real estate empire, with so many gilded phallic structures built in his likeness…”

What is gaudy? Overdone according to the esthetic diktats of the age. The name came from a Spanish super genius named Gaudi, who didn’t care what people thought. Only what he envisioned. Nothing phallic about his work. His was a finger, a hand, a soul, reaching toward God.

So Gaudi was obviously wrong to be bigger, more ornate, monumental. Who would use buildings to enshrine their own egos in the history of time?

If Gaudi were alive, he'd agree to tea with Donald Trump. Who else in our time has imagination and aspiration?

If Gaudi were alive, he’d agree to tea with Donald Trump. Who else in our time has imagination and aspiration?

Trump’s buildings are vulgar.

ARCHITECTURE VIEW; Proof That All That Glitters Is Not Vulgar

“It is hard not to see in this design the influence of the great glass-and-iron structure of the Cleveland Arcade, but here Graham Gund, who is a native of Cleveland, and Adrian Smith have reinterpreted this model in a kind of post-Modern Viennese Secessionist mode. The key thing here is not structure but surface articulation; the room is lushly finished, yet never to excess. The walls are done mostly in a series of beige and reddish-brown marbles, wonderfully patterned in a way that suggests that the architects have looked carefully at sources as disparate as Classicism and 20th-century abstract painting. If the rich, warm palette of marbles calls to mind the peach marble inside Trump Tower, the splendid patterns and textures, and the setting off of the marble with mahogany instead of the brass used at the Trump building, set the arcade of 75 State Street apart and remind us that this is a building that uses decoration not as glitz but as part of a larger goal toward a civilized urbanity.”

So common and oblivious of city context, unless you count mirrors as echoes of the long tradition.

So common and oblivious of city context, unless you count mirrors as echoes of the long tradition.

So. I can read what the NYT dilettantes say, or I can remember what I learned in Art History at college and my sister’s experience in architecture school at a time of incipient upheaval. Her courses were designed to imbue her with the gospel of Le Corbusier, “form follows function.” These days it’s called the Brutalist school. Two examples.

Keystone of Boston's "Government Center."

Keystone of Boston’s “Government Center.” I was required to write an admiring paper about it. I got a B-. Maybe a lack of enthusiasm.

The IRS HQ in DC. The columns are a vestigial ruse.

The IRS HQ in DC. The columns are a vestigial ruse.

I graduated and spent some time hanging out at the same university where my sis was studying architecture. They were getting the Corb gospel in spades, but they were also beginning to rebel a bit. True, they didn’t foresee this.

Venturi strip center times a hundred. The boardwalk.

Venturi strip center times a hundred. The boardwalk.

But they did feel that deep seated impulse to rebel against totalitarian architecture, and I spent some all-nighters with them in their model building sessions (often 16 hours at a sprint, kind of like Face-Off), express a yen toward the cheap strip architecture, inspired by Vegas, of the pioneer post-modern architect Robert Venturi. I scoffed. But they were right. Architecture is supposed to show people who they are and challenge them to respond unblindly but seeingly. A step toward actual consciousness.

We are all living in a Venturi strip center now. Except those of us who can still remember the pre-postmodern era. I can. Can you? Until you can, Venturi, just like Gaudi, is a lesson. Sometimes vulgarity is the necessary slap in the face of a soldier who let down the side.

A quick Venturi gallery.

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Brutalism never worked. It was ugly and dehumanizing. Venturism probably doesn’t work either, too coarse and loud. But Trump has sponsored a wide range. He is a wide range of man. I grew up in the country with all kinds of people. Most people I met later lived on a block with the same kind of people their parents were, same incomes, same cars, same limited aspirations. Why the conformists of all stripes and classes hate Trump so much. He defies classifications. He’s a patron of architecture, whether you admit it or not. That puts your mind in a different space. Not everything can or should look like Eliot House at Harvard. Not everything can or should like the Guggenheim. Or the Empire State Building. Or the Vatican. Your eyes and mind get bigger when you imagine the possibilities.

All I’m suggesting is that if you want a progressive art critic, go with Prince Charles, who wants everything to look like the Houses of Parliament unless it can be buried by the rising seas of Global Warming. As a Patrone of architecture, Trump has let the whole gamut of styles loose. Don’t forget, he commissions, he critiques designs, and he has to get them built to make money in their particular business environments. True he could have put his inheritance in the bank and watched his trust fund grow until, like a sad sibling, he expired of unexplored potential. What the Bernie people would expect and a surprising number of Yalies would prefer. Because it is better to be born with money and die young than do something creative with the money and aspire to greatness. Got it. Something Jonah Goldberg and Charles Krauthammer and Kevin Williamson and David Zincavage have forgotten. When they come in to take this apart, they should be very very careful they don’t sound like Prince Charles taking a first in the Twit of the Year Contest.

Truth is, it’s always the smallest people who can’t abide anyone larger than life.

Stay tuned for the literary side of the argument. Even worse for the Scrooges of the eight.

 

 

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