The adage “less is more” is credited to architect Mies van der Rohe, famed for his sleek, spare Seagram Building in New York. But those same words also showed up in a Robert Browning poem about an Old Master painter decades before modern architecture raised its unadorned head. Yet, even Browning can’t be called the first to utter the adage, if you count what the ancient Roman Pliny the Younger wrote, "Multum, non multa,” (much is not much). His way of expressing “less is more” bears on the look of #Donald Trump’s buildings, which seem like much is never enough..
Consider the Trump International Hotel & Tower, a beach resort in Panama. To this column, it bears resemblance to half a watermelon with its insides exposed – seeds and all. Architecture critics through the years have likewise frowned on the Donald’s aesthetic. Herbert Muschamp of the New Republic called Trump International Hotel and Tower a ‘50s glass skyscraper “in a ‘80s gold lame party dress.” Paul Goldberger of the New York Times classed it “more at home in Atlantic City where surface glitter is really all there is.” And Paul Gapp of the Chicago Tribune chided such buildings for their “blinding flamboyance.”
Another way to look at the real estate mogul’s building style is to see it as the stuff of childhood when we were all tots and invariably chose the red lollipop from an assortment of colored candies.
It’s the lure of the most eye-catching. Such is his sense of beauty. It plods on as if in a state of arrested development and hard to take serious. This would explains why members of the American Institute of Architects are railing against their organization’s president Robert Ivy for his statement of A.I.A. support for Trump’s infrastructure plans.
Who’s kidding who?
Speaking for the AIA’s 89,000 members, but without their consent, Ivy asserted that the organization stands ready to work with the president-elect because of his campaign pledge to commit $500 billion to infrastructure spending for schools, hospitals and other public works. The members deride Ivy’s unequivocal acceptance of the campaign promise because Trump’s beliefs go against what the AIA stands for, like climate change. As Michael Kimmelman, architecture critic for the New York Times, tweeted, “When will the profession own up to its ethical obligations?”
Off the wall
Also protesting Ivy’s letter of support for the president-elect promises is Chicago-based architect Katherine Darnstadt, who originated a #NotMyAIA hashtag tweet that called the AIA support “spineless.” These architects are right to be suspicious of the campaign promise because it is believed to be nothing more than large tax cuts for private companies. Apparently Trump’s only real intent to build anything is a border wall, and even that isn’t certain anymore. Watch this space. #Election 2016