Donald Trump’s towers glitter with gold lamé and mirrored glass. But underneath lurks a story of broken promises, angry buyers and lawsuits. What does this mean for his $500bn presidential building spree?
As the self-styled builder president, Donald Trump began his electoral campaign with a grand architectural promise. “I will build a great wall,” he said, standing in the lobby of his proudest creation, Trump Tower in New York, surrounded by 240 tonnes of pink Breccia Pernice marble. “Nobody builds walls better than me, believe me. And I’ll build them very inexpensively.”
The billionaire real estate tycoon and president-elect has made a career out of building inexpensive walls and filling them with very expensive apartments. But this would be a wall of a different kind: an “impenetrable, physical, tall, powerful, beautiful, southern border wall” that would march along the Mexican border, to keep out the “drugs, crime and rapists”, punctuated with one “big, beautiful door” – presumably so his Trump Tower taco bowls could still come in.
Like most of Trump’s policies, the wall has always been big on bluster but light on detail. It mysteriously grew in height as his campaign snowballed, from 30 to 55ft, while budgets rose from $8bn to $12bn. Independent assessments suggest it would cost more like $25bn and require more than three times as much concrete as the Hoover Dam. Unperturbed, Trump insisted his wall would have “beautiful everything” and be “just perfect”. “Maybe someday they’ll call it the Trump Wall. So I have to make sure it’s beautiful, right?” Since winning the election he has conceded that, in places, it might actually be a fence.
If it’s anything like the other edifices that bear his name, in 20ft high bronze letters, beauty might be stretching it. From the serrated flanks of his brooding Trump Tower to the gold lamé attire of his Las Vegas hotel, his buildings glow with a surface sheen, like his own bronzed face, but it is a veneer of luxury that masks a prosaic product underneath. […]