sticking your name to a skyscraper in a big way


We don’t use the word ‘air’ in this dictionary very often as naturally we prefer the sky for anything in between earth and heavens and because it related to ‘nothingness’. For this term however, the air couldn’t be more fitting. The incident that gave way to airbragging is the addition of five 20-feet tall letters of reflective stainless-steel on the lower section of the Trump International Hotel & Tower in Chicago, spelling, off course: TRUMP.

In response, the famed Chicago Tribune architecture critic Blair Kamin wrote: “Godzilla is here and the Trump sign is on the building” to which Trump replied by calling Kamin a “third-rate architecture critic”, after which it was gloves off on Twitter.

Whatever you might think of Donald Trump, he does represent the “bold as brass”-part of the skyscraper world which values outspokenness and visibility. The Mad Men character Roger Sterling was never shy to remind people his name was on a skyscraper, and companies pay handsome money to have their logo grace the sky, even though they occupy only a fraction of the building. Insurance broker Willis for example only occupies 3 out of the 102 stories of Chicago’s Willis Tower.

Some wise cities, such as São Paulo, decided to ban all outdoor advertising, but most cities have rules on signage of skyscrapers, either as part of architecture guidelines or a general ordinance on advertising and signage.

In response to the Chicago Trump sign, the city drafted new rules to curb airbragging. According to the Washington Post, building signs would have to be significantly smaller (in Trump’s case, about five times smaller). They’d have to be located much closer to the rooftop, effectively out of sight at eye level. No Vegas-style flashing lights or neon. And only a building’s principal occupant — using at least 51 percent of the floor space — could plaster its brand on the building. That means a company filling two floors of a high-rise can’t pay a developer for that right.