CHICAGO—Donald Trump reportedly has agreed to teach a graduate course in architecture at the University of Chicago. The draft syllabus indicates that the class will be dedicated to the study of “Trump’s signature brand of fabulously unadorned, tasteful architecture.”
Lessons are set to begin this summer in the Skyline Room of his five-star Trump International Hotel and Tower in downtown Chicago, while the school of architecture’s main lecture theater undergoes renovation.
“You can’t spell ‘diploma’ without ‘Donald Trump,’ ” explained the real estate mogul. “Not the diploma I’m selling, anyway.”
But it is Trump’s name, as much as his reputed fondness for glitz and self-promotion, that has the city’s cultural elite sneering at the billionaire’s “utter lack of class and respect for the city’s architectural heritage.”
“That’s an understatement,” says Blair Kamin, the Chicago Tribune’s award-winning architectural critic, who has been hammering Trump for installing a garish 20-foot-tall sign on the tower’s side that spells out the magnate’s name—breaking one of the city’s unwritten taboos.
“None of the other towers have signs on them,” insists Kamin. “Trump can jazz up the exterior all he wants, but without a traditional Chicago core, the building will remain as sad and soulless as the man whose name adorns its facade. It’s much like a deep-dish pizza in that way.”
Offered Kamin, “The only thing he’s qualified to teach is a course on how not to design a building, least of all in Chicago. And he’d still probably insist on writing his name on the blackboard in gold leaf.”
For his part, Trump has dismissed the complaints from both the “third-rate architecture critic” and Mayor Rahm Emanuel, who has pledged to fight to remove the “architecturally tasteless” sign and cancel Trump’s teaching contract.
“I have the hottest brand in the world right now and there are those who are saying I’m doing Chicago a favor,” proclaimed Trump. Whether or not that is true, he does have authorization for the sign from both the City Council and the zoning administrator. “That’s the only hall pass I need, in my estimation.”
The university’s registrar says signups for Trump’s class are mounting rapidly. She encourages students to visit her in 384 Trump Hall before the course reaches capacity.