Wednesday, September 23, 2009


The beginning of the 1990s would seem to be a good place to start Part 2 in discussing Donald Trump. Perhaps his heyday, for a brief moment in time he was building relatively better buildings. Of course, to say that a Trump building is good architecture is extremely relative, sort of like saying that a black velvet painting is a good rendering of Elvis Presley. But during this time, he did put up a few things I can fault a bit less.

Trump Palace (1991)
New York City
I am perfectly willing to admit that this is not a terrible work of architecture, at all. In fact, it's got a sort of Machine Age robustness to it that I very much appreciate.
Its proportions and detailing are handled quite adeptly. It also contrasts its hard, blocky massing with an almost elegantly soft silhouette. I'm not sure I would find it to be a particularly delightful place to live, it's a bit too strong and lacks a certain human sensibility. For one thing, balconies 300 feet in the air with no buffer or anything are a complete waste of time...not to mention money. But as architecture goes, it's very well done.

Trump International Hotel and Tower (1997)
[formerly Gulf & Western Building (1971), Thomas E. Stanley]
New York City
Renovation by Philip Johnson
I pass by this building on my way to work, and I really do like it. I think it has a sort of starkly linear, glossy majesty to it. Certainly there is a lot about it that's derivative; the first thing that comes to my mind is Eero Saarinen's CBS Building with its similarly diagonally-oriented piers. This one is also kind of a cheap copy of the Pittsburgh Plate Glass Building. But I think it has its own merits, and furthermore, no one would ever describe Johnson as being particularly original with a straight face. His strengths were elsewhere. I also really appreciate his self-referencing the 1964 World's Fair. Trump International is still a little bit on the banal side, to be sure, but definitely an improvement on what it looked like before.
--Photo courtesy Corbis.
There you can see it adjacent to Edward Durell Stone's 2 Columbus Circle, another of the "Ugliest" buildings decided upon by people who clearly have no clue what they're talking about. Why the New York Coliseum (at center) didn't make it onto any lists, I have no idea. I'd have had no argument with that.

Trump Place: 200 (1999), 180 (1999), & 160 Riverside Boulevard (2001)
New York City
Philip Johnson and Costas Kondylis
--All Trump Place photos courtesy Wired.
Continued below...

New York City
(possibly Marta Rudzki for) Costas Kondylis Architects
One of the more controversial buildings he built, as many of you remember, World blocked numerous river views from adjacent (and no doubt pricey) apartments and cast a huge shadow over the rest. It may be the reason Trump mostly abandoned New York and began building in other cities where he'd get less community resistance. As I said before, I think Kondylis is a great match for Trump. I'm not convinced that, in 2001, we really needed another work of Minimalist architecture in New York. But as Minimalism goes, this building is glorious. From some angles in some lighting conditions, its façades look as if they could be made of one giant, solid sheet of glass. From others, the rigorous pattern of its window bays displays an unapologetic order unmatched in most other skyscrapers.

Fort Lauderdale, Florida
The funny thing about this is that everywhere lists this as a Michael Graves building, which redeems Trump slightly. The website, however, describes it as "Michael Graves inspired architecture" by Oscar Garcia. For a brief moment, I put a very contemptuous smirk on my face at this clever deception. It is a Graves building, though. Graves has it on his website, as well. I'll commend Trump for hiring an illustrious architect, but Graves was clearly just going through the motions. It has a somewhat personably proportioned street presence, but the primary colors are obnoxious. And the "I'm a cruise ship now" porthole windows are way too corny and obvious, even for Michael Graves. Garcia has done some interesting and quite subtly sculptural work. He's been particularly successful at times with a vaguely Latin-esque and decidedly Floridian typology.

Trump Place: 140 (2003), 220 (2003), 120 (2004), & 240 Riverside Boulevard (2005)
New York City
Costas Kondylis Architects
Again, Kondylis comes through with some nice, solid work. There's nothing particularly striking about this group of buildings, and I definitely think they'd have been well served by a little bit more stylistic cohesion. Having said that, Kondylis and Johnson seem to have referenced the historical language of New York's skyscrapers quite wonderfully. In a very nicely pared-down form, with the exception maybe of 120 Riverside, they would seem to recall buildings from the first third of the twentieth century. I wouldn't be surprised if the historical references were Johnson's contribution, although he had more or less abandoned Postmodernism at this point. I do find it a little disturbing, however, that this is such an enormous parcel of riverside property. It seems unnecessarily greedy somehow, even for Trump.

White Plains, New York
Costas Kondylis Architects
--Image courtesy 10 City Center.
Up in White Plains, it all starts to fall apart. Whatever happened to the grace Kondylis displayed in earlier works, I have no idea, but this shows none of it. Stodgy, awkward, uninspired, and painfully detailed, this is a real disappointment.

There are also various indications that Trump was somehow involved with the Acqualina Ocean Residences and Resort in Sunny Isles Beach, completed in 2005 with architecture by Robert M. Swedroe. It's about as tacky as Postmodernism gets but of course is described as having all kinds of "architectural splendor," disturbingly. It would appear Trump was only one of many developers involved with the project, so I'm not going to go into any more detail. More on Swedroe to come.

Sunny Isles Beach, Florida

Click these images: the files are huge and the photography is gorgeous.
That's the Palace on the left and the International Sonesta on the right. Here's the Sonesta:
This is the Palace, the Royale is its mirror image:
I thought I'd close out this installment here, because I think they're some of the best buildings Trump ever built. Certainly they wouldn't work in New York or many other places, but for their location, they're incredible. The practice of Charles Sieger and Jose Suarez is a mostly corporate firm that I'm not convinced I would trust to design a smaller, more intimate residence, but the architecture here is out of control. It's dynamic, sculptural, futuristic, and contextually appropriate. There's something ethereal about it that just screams Florida, and in a delightfully hip 1960s sort of way, but without being a throwback. The view of Sonesta from the beach:
The squared-off tower emerging like a chrysalis from the cocoon of the Sonesta's elliptical, terraced outer shell is particularly magical. That end seems to almost peel itself open in the most tantalizing way. The opposite façade presents a dramatic, sharp prow and a majestic but uncommon symmetry to the oceanfront.

The sort of overturned catamaran forms crowning the Palace and the Royale work so beautifully on a seaside site, but without being overly literal or blatantly symbolic. They're like giant, bright white futuristic machines. Machines that would perform what function, it'd be impossible to say, but they have the feel of enormous wind turbines or similar. The detailing of the window mullions creates a delightful texture from afar, and an almost Mondrianesque visual intrigue at closer range. In my humble opinion, they are a tour de force.

Unfortunately, this is the peak. Problems start to appear again in part three.

©2009, Ryan Witte

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