The Eye of the Fish

January 24, 2017

Drumplestiltskin Tower

Like, I suspect, most of you reading this, I am a mixture of appalled and very glad – appalled that the Americans elected a complete narcissistic dickhead to the position of the President, and very glad that I am over here in a land very far away from him and his hired bunch of expensive illiterate thugs. I’m most impressed by the massive crowd of women who marched against him the next day. Too late to do anything, but still, it’s nice to see that not all of their country has gone mad.
But this is a blog about architecture and urbanism and as such, political commentary is not really my bag – apart from spitting invective. Feel free to spit and rant below in the comments.
So, perhaps it is better to look at the architecture of the little egotist, and the results of his tiny hands. As befits all men with inferiority complexes, he decided to build a big tower to bear his name, and as per all would be kings, he wanted everything to be gold. His penthouse apartment, of course, is incredibly tasteless by almost any method of judgement (more on that later…), yet the actual tower is intriguing and very clever. I’ve been there a couple of times and never cease to be amazed. But then again, just like his presidency, it is all smoke and mirrors. Well, certainly lots of mirrors. Mirrors, more mirrors, and even more mirrors.
The design, by Der Scutt (Donald Scutt, of Poor, Swanke, Hayden and Connell) in 1983 is on a corner – all good developers known to buy up the corner lots and build there – you get two frontages, and views that can’t get built out. What’s better than a corner with one corner I hear you ask? Why, more corners! Corners with mirrors! Mirrors on more corners! And the architects have certainly excelled themselves. Although the upper floors are effectively taking up only half the building plot, the zig-zag nature of the corner means that every apartment inside the building gets a corner, and no doubt rents are high. Sky high. And no doubt, he doesn’t pay rent on his own apartment himself, and no doubt that penthouse apartment is at the very top, the bell-end of the giant penile sculpture that is the Tower. No wonder he doesn’t want to leave and go and live in an ordinary, two-storied, white painted house in the suburbs of a city where only 4% of the population voted for him.
Anyway, so, yes, the Tower is a thing, and is a very clever thing from the outside. Inside, however, it is another story. I actually really really like the inside, as, like its namesake, it fucks with your head and is very surprising, doing tricks that the rest of the world is continuously amazed by. I can’t find a ground floor plan for it, and so a section may have to do instead – which shows you that the atrium is actually at the back end of the building, not in the area under the front as I had thought it might be. Of course, being the man that he is, everything about the Tower reeks of lies and misinformation as well as outwardly opulent flatulence.
There’s 58 upper floors, but he says that there are 68 stories, so his apartment is on the 68th floor. That’s because the atrium, which is variously described as 5 stories high or 6 stories high, apparently takes up the space of 10 stories, so, you know, whatever, make up some bullshit and spin the story hard enough and people will report it as truth. Works for some people! Who knows where it will get you – maybe even head of your own country! How about some cold, hard facts then: the building is 202m tall to the top of the roof. The building has 28 sides, due to all the corners. The flagship store on the ground floor is Gucci.
The atrium is Halloween for the eyes though – both a Trick and a Treat. It is a complex space, with a tall (18m) waterfall cascading down the rear wall, over rose pink “Breccia Pernice” white-veined marble, and up-lit by many bright shiny spotlights. This is no moss-covered, damp, soggy waterfall, but instead a cascade of glitteriness and golden showers, with relatively little water actually reaching the bottom – a perfect failed example of the Trickle-down effect.
You get up the atrium by using the escalators, which weave you up from floor to floor and eventually you reach the top, only to weave your way back down again. Along the way, you realise that the atrium is not actually all that big, and that the other waterfall and other bank of escalators is in fact the same one you were on, just reflected in giant gold-tinted mirrors. In fact, not only is the outside mirrored, but the inside is as well, meaning that there is not actually that much rose pink marble but actually just lots of gold-tinted mirrors. Not real gold, of course, just a cheaper imitation in brass, but the look is mesmerising, and you end up like a deer in the headlights, gradually voting for the man whose name is plastered everywhere.
It’s confusing. It’s very clever. Der Scutt was a clever architect. The upper floors are, well, who can even remember the upper floors. The shops are, or were when I was there, mostly empty, or filled with tasteless tat. It is a public space, for which he no doubt got a tax rebate, or a free wife, or some other such bauble to stash away with his other ill-gotten gains. You know he is famous for not actually paying the bills from his architects, right? Much the same as other scoundrel developers we have (or had) in our own town, with the Greek guy being the most prominent, but others do it too. That’s how you make money – by screwing over the workers – something that the proletariat (i.e. most of America) need to learn. Find your barrel and be prepared to bend over.
The building was built on the site of a previously well-regarded Art Deco building for Bonwit Teller, and the proposed solution was to remove intact the previous buildings limestone bas-relief sculptures of semi-nude goddesses, as well as the large ornate entry grille at the store, and donate them to the Museum of Modern Art. Instead, the owner of the development ordered them to be smashed up and destroyed, much like he will do to ideas of democracy and decency in the country he now heads.
Meanwhile, try and tell me where the space starts and ends, and where the walls begin. Are you looking in a mirror, reflecting yourself, or is that another handsome fish over there, waving back at you? Oooh, shiny shiny shiny!
Not that you or I could ever get into the actual Tower of course, but if you do, at the very top is a tasteful, well-appointed, sensitively scaled apartment for a demure man. Such taste!
The living room just simply EXUDES class from every gilt-edged molecule of its fabric. Just to prove that it is not all gold, there is even a square of white carpet, just to prove how tasteful this is.
And lastly, just to really make your day, and perhaps to explain why the first action in the white house was not to sign a bill to repeal Obamacare, but to replace the maroon curtains with gold, because, as you know, gold is just so much more tasteful. Enjoy. Better bring a bucket….

24 - 01 - 17

Easy enough to see who is lying and who is right. If the building is 202m tall, then if it had 58 floors, they would be about 3.48m each, from floor to floor – plenty of space for a lavish apartment.

Whereas if it had 68 floors, each floor would be just 2.97m floor to floor. Allowing a minimum of 2.5m stud height in the apartments, that leaves just 470mm for beams etc. Possible but unlikely, mainly because the ceiling is more likely to be set at about 2.7m minimum.

The truth, of course, will lie somewhere between the two. Maybe he numbered the floors from the bottom of the atrium or the lower basement floor?

24 - 01 - 17

Here’s a link to the demolition of the previous building

24 - 01 - 17

Also via McMansion Hell..

24 - 01 - 17

Gtac – thanks for the link, that’s interesting, and Tom – thanks also – that is absolutely brilliant. I especially love the line:
“The difference between 18th century France and 21st century America is that the insane opulence of the French royalty inspired the country to rise up against tyranny and send them all to the guillotine. Yet, in America, it inspired a large number of people to vote for Donald Trump for president.”

and this is proved in the comments below the article:
Harvey Manfrenjensen on Jan 19, 2017: “It’s really tough to believe a straight man would inflict this on himself.”

nan on Jan 19, 2017: “Honestly disappointed in this. To get political on a site that I followed (not anymore) for inspiring ideas, I found your article to be “In poor taste” ” and:

joan tackett on Jan 23, 2017: “You are an idiot who thinks if you spew enough venom readers will be impressed. Sorry to tell you that’s not the case. You may not like it. I may not like it. But one thing I guarantee is that if this were Obama’s home you would be kowtowing and singing praises. Just more bs.”

24 - 01 - 17

Alan – thanks for the numbers breakdown – the section may be just diagrammatic, but the atrium appears to actually have 7 floors opening into it, certainly not 10 floors, so we know he is lying at least once. It’s disturbing that he lies so willingly and so frequently, but then again, he does appear to live in a different reality to the rest of us. Also, and just as a passing note based on that section above, the floors don’t look to be extra thin, but instead look giant and clunky. So I’m going for the 58 floors total. There’s no way that thing is 68 floors. So he is lying again.

25 - 01 - 17

Actually if you haven’t seen the McMansion Hell site.. it great fun. Especially the ‘101’ section that explains exactly what is architecturally wrong (and grades them into the 10 Circles of Hell):

(Great for amateur architectural consumers such as myself :)

John H
25 - 01 - 17

I remember entering the building and riding up (and down) the escalators back when as a young man I visited NY while touring the States, discovering my far-flung extended family members. A cousin of mine insisted we visited the place seeing as it hadn’t been open that long and she was very excited about it. I didn’t know who or what “Trump” was as the time but I have to say I was mighty impressed…but this was the mid-1980s and I had only just turned 20 so my (and everyone else’s) taste were different then (excluding I suspect Mr Trump). My strongest memory was that they had Gershwin’s “Rhapsody in Blue” on constant repeat playing over the sound system. We dropped in again a few days later at cousin’s request, and it was still playing…

25 - 01 - 17

John – I can’t remember what music was playing when i was there last year, but it wasn’t my aural senses i was worried about – it was my visual senses. I was getting blinded by all the bling. So much fake gold! Maybe thats why he has such a weird suntan – the orange glow of his skin is from prolonged exposure to all the reflected golden light?

I tell you what though – with the latest news today that the new administration is planning to close down funding for the PBS etc (i.e. close down free quality media) and has already muzzled some of the departments – stopping them from putting out press releases that have comments that are unfavourable to his line of thought – it is clear that the USA have installed an exceptionally fascist form of government for the next 4 years at least. I’m honestly thinking that the next step will be monitoring of social media channels and the barring from entering the USA for people who say nasty (i.e. truthful) things about the Liar-in-Chief. They’ve already stopped some Canadian women from entering the USA as they had mentioned they were going to the protest march. I know it sounds histrionic at this early stage, but it won’t be long before the expulsion of undesirables takes place, and that was exactly what Adolf did when he got into power.

Mark my words – its going to get far, far worse.

20 - 02 - 17

From the files of the New Yorker:
“During Trump’s ascendancy, in the nineteen-eighties, the essence of his performance art—an opera-buffa parody of wealth—accounted for his populist appeal as well as for the opprobrium of those who regard with distaste the spectacle of an unbridled id. Delineating his commercial aesthetic, he once told an interviewer, “I have glitzy casinos because people expect it. . . . Glitz works in Atlantic City. . . . And in my residential buildings I sometimes use flash, which is a level below glitz.” His first monument to himself, Trump Tower, on Fifth Avenue at Fifty-sixth Street, which opened its doors in 1984, possessed many genuinely impressive elements—a sixty-eight-story sawtoothed silhouette, a salmon-colored Italian-marble atrium equipped with an eighty-foot waterfall—and became an instant tourist attraction. In Atlantic City, the idea was to slather on as much ornamentation as possible, the goal being (a) to titillate with the fantasy that a Trump-like life was a lifelike life and (b) to distract from the fact that he’d lured you inside to pick your pocket.

At times, neither glitz nor flash could disguise financial reality. A story in the Times three months ago contained a reference to his past “brush with bankruptcy,” and Trump, though gratified that the Times gave him play on the front page, took umbrage at that phrase. He “never went bankrupt,” he wrote in a letter to the editor, nor did he “ever, at any time, come close.” Having triumphed over adversity, Trump assumes the prerogative to write history.

In fact, by 1990, he was not only at risk, he was, by any rational standard, hugely in the red. Excessively friendly bankers infected with the promiscuous optimism that made the eighties so memorable and so forgettable had financed Trump’s acquisitive impulses to the tune of three billion seven hundred and fifty million dollars. The personally guaranteed portion—almost a billion—represented the value of Trump’s good will, putative creditworthiness, and capacity for shame. A debt restructuring began in the spring of 1990 and continued for several years. In the process, six hundred or seven hundred or perhaps eight hundred million of his creditors’ dollars vaporized and drifted wherever lost money goes. In America, there is no such thing as a debtors’ prison, nor is there a tidy moral to this story.”

MAY 19, 1997 the New Yorker
By Mark Singer