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Trump Sign Stirs Up Drama in Chicago

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

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Donald Trump thinks his name should be displayed more than 20 feet tall, 141 feet long, and 96 stories high.

Others don't, however, setting up a showdown between The Donald, architectural critics and the mayor of Chicago, where just such a sign now crowns a riverfront hotel.

The sign—made of gigantic, glowing, stainless-steel letters—reads “T-R-U-M-P” and adorns Trump’s riverfront tower.

Trump Tower
Screenshot via CBS Chicago

Nearly six years after it opened, the Trump International Hotel & Tower in Chicago, now features its owner's last name, infuriating many of the city's residents, including the mayor, reports say.

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel has called the recent installation “architecturally tasteless,” saying it scars the “architecturally tasteful building,” according to reports.

“The sign—which was already reduced in size and scope—does comply with the provisions of the planned development ordinance and the City Council sign order, but [the mayor] has asked his staff to determine if there are any options available for further changes,” spokeswoman Kelley Quinn told media outlets.

Trump Responds

Meanwhile, the real-estate billionaire seems to be in no mood to make any changes to the $850 million Trump International Hotel & Tower, which was built in 2008. The city signed off on the branding in 2009, under the previous mayor, reports relate.

Moreover, Trump said via Twitter that many people adore the “magnificent” sign.

“I have the hottest brand in the world right now, and there are those who are saying I’m doing Chicago a favor,” he also told news outlets.

“The fact is that people love it,” he told Matt Lauer on NBC’s TODAY Friday. Trump has ornamented many of his structures with similar branding.

“I just think Chicago has other problems they should be worried about—not a sign,” Trump said.

Architect, Critic Weigh In

Others are not as convinced, seeing the sign as a dent to the city’s architectural reputation.

The sign is “in poor taste, it hurts the image of the building, [and] hurts the image of Chicago,” the building’s architect, Adrian Smith, said in a statement provided to news outlets.

Trump Tower
SolarWind-Chicago via Flickr

The building's architect has weighed in on the sign drama, saying the lettering hurts the image of the 96-story glass building.

Meanwhile, Blair Kamin, the Pulitzer Prize-winning architecture critic for the Chicago Tribune, wrote that the “The Donald’s badge of dishonor” is one better suited for Atlantic City or Las Vegas and threatens the riverfront’s dignity and beauty in this op-ed.

Trump retorted with a tweet, “Blair, you may be the worst architectural critic in the business but thanks for your nice reviews about Trump Chicago & sign PR.”

Sign Not Alone

The tower is not the only building with a prominent sign displayed along the Chicago River, CBS Chicago noted.

“The Kemper building and Hotel 71 both have signs facing the river, bearing their name. The Apparel Center also bears a large sign for the Chicago Sun-Times, which is now headquartered there,” the report said.

This post was updated at 9:34 a.m. ET June 18, 2014, to clarify the opposition to the sign.


Tagged categories: Advertising; Aesthetics; Cladding; Color + Design; Condominiums/High-Rise Residential; Design; Government; Regional; Regulations

Comment from Tom Schwerdt, (6/17/2014, 8:19 AM)

So, what is the actual size on these other signs? Is TRUMP twice as big as KEMPER or HOTEL 71 or CHICAGO SUN-TIMES? 50% larger? Half as big?

Comment from Gary Burke, (6/17/2014, 8:42 AM)

If he paid for it and the signage complies with local laws, leave it alone! I remember years ago that Drs and attornies could not advertise...times have changed! focus on homelessness, unemployment, diseases, war torn countries...aren't those more important!! Where are everyone's heads at nowadays!!!

Comment from Paul Braun, (6/17/2014, 8:48 AM)

getting into a pissing match with Trump is like trying to reason with a dog doing his business on your lawn. The dog has no sense of what we see as decency, you end up looking like a fool for trying, the dog loves the attention, and you just end up with one more architecturally tasteless pile.

Comment from David Johnson, (6/17/2014, 12:04 PM)

I’m in Chicago right now for a conference. I think it looks good. As long as it’s compliant with city ordinances, I say leave it alone. I wonder if the democratic mayor and President dislikes having Trump in Chicago. If so, they need to grow up and realize everyone doesn't think the same as they do.

Comment from Scott Farnsley, (6/18/2014, 8:03 AM)

I have never posted a comment on D&D before and I am not a fan of Donald Trump. However, this story is so biased that I am surprised it is in D&D. The first sentence is a Trump bash. The second sentence is an out an out falsification. The third sentence takes this from a news story to an editorial. There is no “by line”, so is we don’t know where this drivel came from. The sign complies with ordinances and has been signed off on by the City Council. With all the crime and deficits Chicago is running, the Mayor has more important things to worry about than spending tax payer money trying to find ways to skirt their own laws. Now, back to lurk mode.

Comment from Rodney White, (6/18/2014, 8:58 AM)

...So now Rahm Emanuel is an expert on taste.....doesn't he have a city with some real problems (like corruption, violence, budgetary issues, etc.) to solve? Although the sign on the building may be in-your- face and ostentatious, it wouldn't be there if it hadn't been approved..So, Rahm, quit inventing crises, and get back to running the city......

Comment from Tom Schwerdt, (6/18/2014, 9:13 AM)

Scott - some good points. The second sentence is proven false in David's comments. Personally, I find it annoying and a bit shady when there is no byline on an article. Does the lack of a byline mean it is the official editorial opinion of D+D?

Comment from Mary Chollet, (6/18/2014, 9:43 AM)

D+D News has never bylined news articles. No "editorial opinion" is intended or should be implied. (Blogs, which may contain opinions, are clearly labeled as such.) We have updated the article to clarify the opposition to the sign. Thanks.

Comment from Simon Hope, (6/19/2014, 4:00 AM)

With a name like Trump, would you want to advertise, in the UK to trump is to expel flatulence, basically hot stinking air! So you have the Fart Tower, we have the Fart links golf course in Aberdeen, Scotland, the only sign befoer you get there is a small brown (significant?) sign 250 yards before on the road!

Comment from Tom Schwerdt, (6/19/2014, 8:25 AM)

Mary - thanks for the clarification. I still think that a byline for an opinion piece (and this certainly did qualify before the language was changed) is more appropriate.

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