So, Frank Lloyd Wright addresses artists at Walt Disney, and he tells them...

    This is not a joke! Click here to find out what he told them. [via]
    or read the transcripts here.

    Mickey Mouse architecture Frank Lloyd WrightMickey Mouse architecture Frank Lloyd Wright

     Among other gems, Wright got out:
    "As I understand our modern architecture, it is more nearly Oriental than Occidental."
    "I am not a Communist. I love my country."
    He was asked,
    "Do you find it is true that there are a number of people who are not willing to accept modern architecture in the same way that (they) are not willing to accept modern music?"
    and he answered,
    "It is just because they are ignorant because of their ignorance and stupid because of their ignorance. They don't know and they just can't see and why worry about it?"
    And this FLW pearl of wisdom,
    "Culture is what this country needs now. Culture brings something from within outwards. Education takes something and tries to stick it on from the outside. Education tries to tell you and culture shows you. Best of all, show by being."
    "If you drive a modern car in front of a Colonial house, you insult either the car or the house every time you do it."
    So where would Wright drive this beauty? The car I mean.

    He'd drive it front of any one of his own buildings, no doubt. Where else?

    Photo from the same Frank Lloyd Wright website of a float designed by Frank Lloyd Wright! for the 1957 Tournament of Roses parade in Pasadena.
    Wright, who made his home in the Valley in 1957, agreed to design the float for the city at no cost after a small committee from the Phoenix Junior Chamber of Commerce approached him at Taliesin West. Wright was 90 at the time. The float was built for $6,000. Parade judges were impressed, and they awarded the "First in Sunshine" float first prize in its category!

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    Joffrey Tower

    Speaking of the Joffrey, look who's moving in to Booth Hansen's tower on State Street, across from Macy*s nee Fields. It was to be called MoMo, "Modern Momentum" - glad that name got changed! Joffrey Tower sounds so much more dignified. Next week, the ballet company will launch their approxmiately 35 million dollar capital campaign, to raise money for the buildout, their endowment, outreach, education, live music and more.

    The Joffrey will take about 40,000 sq. ft. in the building, on the third and fourth floors. They hope to start moving in in December. It'll house their administration, plus six or seven rehearsal spaces of various sizes, a small costume shop, some scenery design and almost 1200 sq. ft of storage.

    And they'll get ground floor exposure right there on State Street with a ticket booth.

    The main public feature will be a black box studio theater in the Joffrey Tower with some 100 seats. I can't see what this grand troupe would be able to perform in there - some smaller dances? - and they'll rent out the space. Most of their local performances which will continue to be in the Auditorium Theater.

    So it's happening, remember that talks had broken down between the Joffrey and the developer of the tower, Chicago-based Smithfield Properties LLC. For a long time it seemed the troupe couldn't afford the move. A $4 million grant from the state helped.

    I wonder how much property values are increased by saying, "I live in Joffrey Tower," rather than "I live in MoMo."

    Smithfield deserves kudos for the good work they're doing with Booth Hansen. I'm glad the parking for this building on State Street, that great street is underground and not in a "building podium." Of course for that they get a zoning variance to build more mass above ground but it's a worthwhile tradeoff.

    Smithfield and Booth Hansen also teamed up for the gorgeous (and pricey)
    30 W. Oak.

    And they have another project, called "SoNo." What's with these names? Am I missing something? To me that's "so no." Oh, these modernists think they're echoing Mies' wish for an architecture that's "almost nothing?" Let's get an arts group to move in there and lend it a better name too!

    A little mo' on MoMo. What looks like steel I-beams around the glass in the image above are actually glass themselves, spandrel glass with aluminum fins (steel prices kept going up.) So it's nearly an all-glass facade.

    Too bad few if any of the dancers would ever be able to afford to live there! I see around town taking the bus, eating cheap food, generally suffering for their art....

    Gd bless 'em.
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    Chicago Ergo Sum

    Second City? The Joffrey, August Wilson, and with the opera "Dialogues of the Carmelites," if we're second, we're second to


    Hmm, what should we see today?
    This Gauguin in the Art Institute's "From Cezanne to Picasso show?" More on that in a moment.

    What a week! It started with the Goodman's superb production of August Wilson's last masterpiece, "Radio Golf." That play sings of our time, without music. His African-American characters - in the 1990's - have lost their music. One gets a spot on the radio and he talks about golf! (Hence the name of the play.) The one time the two leads do sing is when they learn from the government that their neighborhood has been officially declared "blight." They do an African-based dance and cry out ecstactically "blight! blight! blight!" Now for August Wilson to show African-Americans happy that their neighborhood is blighted, and that the U.S. Government thinks so, and to have his two characters be happy to work with the U. S. Government to get federal loans to build new housing to make money, is a strong condemnation indeed. Of course, things change in the course of the play. The set for this final play in the Wilson cycle picked up bits from earlier plays, nearly all of which are set in the Hill District of Pittsburgh. And one more note about the music, rather than singing the blues as August Wilson characters from earlier in the century do, these two jokers in "Radio Golf" sing "Blue Skies, " sounding like a couple of frat boys. His 1990's characters have for the most part lost their songs, which his play for the 1910's "Joe Turner's Come and Gone" warned against.

    "Now, I can look at you, Mr. Loomis, and see you a man who done forgot his song. Forgot how to sing it. A fellow forget that and he forget who he is. Forget how he’s supposed to mark down life...See, Mr. Loomis, when a man forgets his song, he goes off in search of it...till he find out he’s got it with him all the time."
    -Joe Turner's Come and Gone
    The Goodman leased its smaller Owen Theater to Congo Square Theater for a take-your-breath-away "Joe Turner." (Both shows closed Sunday.) When Herald Loomis is lying on the floor at the end of act one, "What you gonna do Herald Loomis?" because his feet won't hold him, you can't wait for intermission to end, to find out what he gonna do. And that great line at the end, I don't want to spoil it but it's about "shining like new money" leaves one speechless and hopeful. The cast was superb, particularly Allen Gilmore, as Bynum. "I binds 'em. But you can't bind what don't cling." He embodied the shaman in his character, in ways that will make your hair stand end, like his.

    Kudos to the Goodman for producing exceptionally well all ten of Wilson's plays. They're the only theater in America to put them all on. And I look forward to the day when we'll be able to see them in order, one after the other. There's hardly a more important acheivement in American art.

    As I walked home from the Goodman I saw the back of our Picasso statue, then walked passed Bertrand Goldberg's Marina City, Mies van der Rohe's IBM building, the Wrigley, the Tribune Tower, all lit at night... What a city! thought I.

    The next day I feasted on the Joffrey Ballet in Louis Sullivan's Auditorium Theater. Both took my breath away. The Auditorium always does, especially as it's restored and regilded; the Joffrey also were also golden. Most especially their performance of "Les Presages," Leonide Massine's most beautiful marriage (in 1933) of Tchaikovsky's Fifth Symphony to dance. The divine Maia Wilkins was possessed as Action. When she crouched down and stared at you with her cat eyes she looked like a leopard in the night. Wilkins was on fire.

    And the duo of Thomas Nicholas in black and Emily Patterson in a short red skirt danced Passion as if they were that. What a combination, he was structure, she was decoration, he was material she was wispy, one absolutely craving the other, they were thesis, antithesis and synthesis, dancing what is there and what is not there, which is what passion is all about.

    Temur Suluashvili left no choices when he appeared. He commanded the stage as Fate.

    The backdrop thrust forth the spiritual qualities of Kandinsky, in an energetic, color and action-filled canvas - 1930's Russian and Bauhaus. The costumes picked up bits from the backdrop. So color and sound became one. And the dancers, moving to the music and wearing the colors also blurred all lines between color, sound and movement.

    With the strong lighting shining on them from the sides you had a scarily good dance.

    There was some inconsistency in the ensemble (I did not see the opening night cast).

    I didn't love the version I saw of George Balanchine's seminal modernist work "Apollo. " Fabrice Calmels danced the lead - he's extremely tall which should be a benefit, but he doesn't dance with enough grace for me. A couple of years ago I saw the Joffrey dance "Apollo," I think Calvin Kitten danced the lead, and he and it were superb. Fabrice always seems to be thinking about what to do next, as if the steps are not coming from his being. There's a delay between intention and movement. So Fabrice made a fine Apollo, except when he moved.

    Only the opening, with April Daly as Leto giving birth to Apollo and Fabrice stumbling to learn to walk is stunning. I'm glad the Joffrey restored that scene to the dance after Balanchine excised it. (And glad the Joffrey helped preserve "Les Presages" and "The Green Table" too.) The end of "Apollo" is a knockout, when the gd ascends the steps to Olympus. When the ballet ended I walked to the back of the theater and up a flight of steps myself, to see what it felt like.

    To see the Joffrey in the Auditorium Theater, it hardly gets better than that.

    They closed with "The Green Table," which is always a heart-shattering dance. Because we never learn the lessons of war. The Green Table is perfect for these crazed times, and I'm glad the Joffrey programmed it; alas as you know it debuted before World War Two and it couldn't make people come to their senses then. The dancers had fun with the opening and closing scenes of diplomats, and then drove home the anti-war message beautifully. The soloists and the ensemble danced with conviction; the costumes, the lighting, even the haircuts! - all rang true. Michael Levine danced Death and he made me want to run away from him as far as I could. I hear Fabrice Calmels was quite good as Death as his height and deliberation benefits him in that role.

    The programming of what they call "Destiny's Dances" (can't they come up with a better title?) made a fascinating arc. It began with the early, nearly abstract, not very narrative "Les Presages," to Balanchine's "Apollo showing the birth of Modernism, to "The Green Table" - which is narrative, expressionist and very cinematic.

    The Joffrey is touring, to PA, NY, Kansas City, Los Angeles and a few other cities. If they're coming to your town, don't miss them.

    I'm glad they're traveling, to spread the word about how good they are. That's what they need to build their reputation and continue to attract talent. Enjoy! --

    But wait there's more! Also Now Playing in Daleyville.

    Rudolf Stingel at the MCA, and at the Art Institute, two great photo shows: "When Color Was New," and

    "Far from Home: Photography, Travel and Inspiration," twentieth century photographers working away from home. Nice to see lesser-known work by well-known photographers.

    And at the Art Institute is the miraculous "From Cezanne to Picasso, Ambroise Vollard, Patron of the Avant-Garde. " 32 glorious, vibrating, yet soothing Cezannes; Gauguin's "D'ou venons nous?" and a room or two full of Picassos. It's room after room of masterpieces, from Russia, Paris, New York and local.

    So who could ask for more? Oh, tonight I go to the Lyric's Dialogues of the Carmelites. It's supposed to be overwhelming. I'll get back to you on that.


    Bottom Photo of more fine modernism: Edward Weston. Washbowl, 1925 © 1981 Center for Creative Photography
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    We will restore Mies' 860-880 Lake Shore Drive Apartments!

    The finest, most poetic, most philosophical and aesthetically thrilling high-rise in the land.

    I told you about the restoration plans here.

    Now the board of trustees has passed the 7+ million dollar capital improvement plan. Thanks to Marc Boxerman, a trustee, and Don Hunt, a trustee, for their good work, and the others too.

    Next we must choose the right restoration architect(s). Krueck and Sexton (scroll down) / Gunny Harboe? John Vinci?

    And I'm a little sad that they'll probably have to rip up the travertine in the lobbies. To get at leaky pipes underneath. That's the original travertine and it feels it. Replacement is never the same. Stone, with its graining and the way it wears, gives off an energy doesn't it? It tells a tale (and travertine knows stories all the way back to ancient Rome.) Our lobby feels more authentic than does, for example, the reconstruction of Mies' Barcelona Pavilion.

    But the travertine on the south porch of Crown Hall was redone and it feels and looks good, the Farnsworth House has been heavily restored after floods, and it feels and looks good; so it can be done, if the right person is doing it, with care. That here is our next charge.

    And I'm excited to move forward with this.
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Corb and Sullivan

    What does Le Corbusier's Firminy Church in France have to do Louis Sullivan's K.A.M. Pilgrim Baptist Church in Chicago?

    Besides that you see they both sport a great arch.

    Well, Corbu died without finishing Firminy. But the local government recognized its cultural importance and committed funds so it will stand.

    In Chicago, we didn't protect Sullivan's church and

    "didn't it burrrrnnnnn, children, talk about burn oh my Lord...."

    Now they want to rebuild on the site, but maybe not exactly to Sullivan's design! That's bone-headed. It is Louis Sullivan's church that needs to stand on that corner on the south side of Chicago.

    Rebuild it the way it was and consecrate it to culture.

    The French paid to complete the unfinished Corbu church, then "consecrated it" to culture.

    Read "When is a chapel not a church?"

    Money grafs:
    "In 2003, although without enthusiasm, the local government restarted construction, but not as a chapel. It is against the law in France for the state to fund a religious building, so it is now a cultural centre with a cross on the roof.

    This is a building that defines us as a world community. It is as important as the Sydney Opera House, or Bilbao's Guggenheim, the pyramids, St Peter's in Rome, Angkor Wat and Beijing's Forbidden City.
    Or Sullivan's K.A.M. Pilgrim Baptist Church. So lease the land in perpetuity from the congregation, give them the church building they want, and which will better serve their needs, and turn K.A.M. Pilgrim Baptist into a cultural center to serve the memories of Sullivan, Thomas Dorsey, Mahalia Jackson, gospel music and the community around it.


    By the way, I also like this graf from the same link, about Corbu's Firminy:
    Le Corbusier was a master at using big, tough, harsh materials softly. His genius is in the way he could provide in a single building an explanation of the human condition that contains so many histories. At Firminy, there is the original cave, the sophisticated geometries of renaissance and Gothic churches, the sculptural forms of Asia and Africa, and the simplicity of abstract modernism. Strangely, one of the world's most beautiful chapels may never be consecrated.
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The Starchitect vs. the homeless?

    I used to think "Starchitect" was a pejorative word. Now it's used in marketing! Seen in a Chicago Tribune ad like this, to me it seems provincial and unfortunate.

    But I'm glad to see Helmut Jahn's name restored in Chicago. He was much-criticized here after his bathroom-colored, post-modern State of Illinois building opened in 1985. After that, and partly due to heating and cooling problems, Jahn's talents were under-used here in his adopted hometown. Instead he designed fine, well-made, interesting structures mostly in Asia and Europe, for example Bayer AG’s new Group headquarters in Germany.

    All of the work abroad by Helmut Jahn that I've seen is more daring, more exciting than

    this new tower, 600 N. Fairbanks, that he's designed for Chicago near the lake, near the river.

    Why is Jahn's work abroad even more interesting than it is in his adopted home town of Chicago, supposedly the world's center of Modernism?


    1980's work at O'Hare airport, the terminal connecting tunnel, the airport subway stop and the United Terminal are all very nice and display his design flair.

    And he has a fine recent building in Chicago -

    his train-shaped steel, glass and concrete dorm at the Illinois Institute of Technology, across the street from Mies' Crown Hall.

    And very soon a similar steel, glass and concrete train-shaped form,

    Near North Apartments, 96-units for homeless people, will open very near to where Chicago's notorious public housing project Cabrini-Green recently stood.

    I'd love to write the following story, I hope I'll have time. I did a few interviews for it last night. Many of the homeless people Jahn's SRO is meant to serve, well, when you talk to them, and ask them what kind of a house they'd like to live in, they describe a typical suburban dwelling, with pitched roof and fireplace, a few windows; when you show them Jahn's building they don't really "get" it. "It's not really what I dreamed of" is what I heard, along with, "why did he use concrete on the inside?" The argument reprises society's battles against Modernism! Stay tuned for more.
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    Architects and Music

    More since the last post.

    Rafael Vinoly, who is now designing an opera for Chicago, and in the past designed the Kimmel Center where the Philadelphia orchestra plays, and he designed Jazz at Lincoln Center at Columbus Circle in New York, trained for a career as a pianist. His father ran the Teatro Colón in Argentina. I'm supposed to interview Vinoly soon, and I'll ask him the role music plays a role in his design of spaces. As one who works a lot with words I'm interested in the essentially wordless artforms of architecture and music. Of course words have space and music to them too.

    Daniel Libeskind, whom I mentioned also designed opera, also trained and performed as a professional pianist. He told me, as we walked through his Jewish Museum in Berlin together, that music is part of that architecture, and that he was conscious of designing spaces that would have a certain acoustic, a certain "sound" to them, even when "empty" or "void." And then of course, they resonate when sound is created within.

    I wonder about other close relationships between architects and music?
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    Rafael! The Return of Vi

    Starchitect Rafael Viñoly has designed a production of Monteverdi's The Return of Ulysses. It will open March 28th at Chicago Opera Theater.

    COT's marketing department writes, "His flair for breathtaking drama shows in his buildings.... Now the renowned architect Rafael Viñoly unleashes his creativity on Homer's story of Ulysses."

    Vinoly returns to Daleyville, after his much-praised

    Graduate School of Business at the University of Chicago (across the street from Frank Lloyd Wright's Robie House.) Vinoly is also working on a hospital building for the University of Chicago, scheduled to open in 2011. It'll feature a "Sky Garden" with broad views of Washington Park and the University of Chicago campus.

    I'm always interested in the confluence of Architecture and Music. In fact, I'll be talking about it at Frank Lloyd Wright's Unity Temple on March 31, in a benefit for the Unity Temple Restoration Foundation.

    I'm looking forward to seeing Vinoly's Ulysses three days earlier. A happy coincidence .
    Architects and Opera? In 2002 I saw

    Daniel Libeskind's Saint Francis of Assisi (Messian) at the Deutsche Oper Berlin. I found that a little too mechanistic in design and movement, and less revealing or supportive of the music.

    I'm curious to see what Vinoly will do. His
    Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts in Philadelphia is musical architecture.

    Chicago Opera Theater run by Brian ("[I managed to catch Vinoly] for a moment during his crazy schedule of zooming around the world as architects do these days,") Dickie, with Jane Glover conducting, is one of the top cultural organizations here. Their Nixon in China last year was unforgettably, mind-blowingly searingly good culture. They brought out the drama in that repetitive work by John Adams with superb singing, staging and many tv sets in a line across the stage. They made the normally pallid Harris Theater stage sing. Their contemporary staging worked well in that simple straightforward space.

    Of course, the most symbiotic relationship would be between

    Tosca and the church in Rome in which it opens,

    Sant'Andrea della Valle.
    Try walking into there and not hearing music!

    St. Francis photo © Bernd Uhlig
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    Tyler makes me think. He asks, "What are our five favorite buildings in America, that are publicly accessible? " The list was not easy to make. We are blessed with great buildings in this land. From California, to the New York Island. But we'll give it a try.

    All this was prompted by this crazy AIA list of "the people's" favorite buildings in America.

    So here's ours, in reverse order of favorites.

    If Tyler wants to name the St. Louis arch, then I'll choose as

    #5. "Cloud Gate" in Millennium Park, Chicago, by Anish Kapoor.

    Tyler says the arch is the best piece of public art in America. He might be right, it is sublime and thoughtful and delightfully modernist. But is it superior to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in D.C., the Statue of Liberty, or "the bean?" "The bean," Cloud Gate, is also a gate, not seen in the pic above, and as I've written, it expresses Einsteinian space, the relationship of the individual to the collective, of the individual to the self, the relationship of heaven to earth and light to solid, and it gorgeously displays the celestial passage of time. Not bad for a single object. I'll vote for it as a "favorite building" also to show how architecture and sculpture are wedded these days.

    4. Fallingwater and Robie House, by Frank Lloyd Wright.

    I could have listed Wright's Guggenheim, Unity Temple, or Johnson Wax, but I'll choose these two domestic symphonies. They're exhilirating to walk through, to experience the blend of nature and flowing space and important for their attempt to fashion domestic harmony (would that it were!). I could have listed only the obvious masterpiece Fallingwater, but I know
    Robie House better and for its urban location and size it would be an easier model for more people to follow. Would that urban and suburban dwellings were built with such sensitivity and artistry today.

    3. The Auditorium Building, by Louis Sullivan.

    A powerful, beautiful statement of the importance of bringing culture at the highest levels to all the people. A gesamtkunstwerk by "unser Lieber Meister," if ever there was one. In there more than anywhere else in the world, one feels, "Ars Longis, Vita Brevis." And it's thrilling. When the performance is moving, say, the Joffrey dancing Balanchine's "Apollo", one looks up at the space under the golden, electrically lit arches above, and has a taste of what heaven will be like.

    2. 860 - 880 Lake Shore Drive Apartments, by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe.

    Mies' work was left off the AIA/people's list of favorite buildings, but his solutions to find dignity and poetry in modern, industrial life are unrivalled. I always live in large cities, and can only afford to live in a high-rise. If I could live in any high-rise anywhere, I'd like to live in 860 - 880 N. Lake Shore Drive in Chicago. Oh, wait a minute, I do live there. I've been there 5 years. Each day is magic. The ways the two halves of the whole play off of each other, in unfolding overlapping ever-sliding planes. The way the I-beams rise up the sides, create depth and when you walk around the buildings, cause the facades to seem to open and close. The crystalline cleansing of walking through the lobby. The serenity of looking out through my magic windows, through which the city takes on a perfection. After 5 years, I still hear music from these works of art.

    And, as of today, my number one pick for my favorite building in America is:

    1. The Farnsworth House, by Mies.

    Plato would be jealous. The Farnsworth incarnates, in space, light and a few fine materials, mostly in pure white, the perfect idea of the modern house. Whether it works well or not is another issue. I love to sit inside and contemplate the ever-changing nature outside, and the nature of life, lived in a modern way - is that possible? - inside. Space and time flow through one, inside this lantern, this beacon, this jewel in the woods. It is more beautiful, more shocking, more perfect than you, or even Plato, could imagine. A true Temple of Love to love. Adding to it's allure is that it's unattainable now that it's owned by the National Trust and Landmarks Illinois. When it was for sale recently was the only time I've ever played the lottery.

    What's your list?

    I thought of mine off the top of my head, I'm sure I'll argue with myself as soon as I post this. What didn't make my list, but could have?
    For a religious building - Eero Saarinen's chapel at MIT.
    For a library - Louis Kahn at Phillips Exeter Academy.

    There you go.
    Now let's build more good ones!
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Buildings and trees

    Yesterday was a glorious blue sky kind of day. I woke up to the view above, from my WC at the magical artist's colony Ragdale.
    I drove down that path to end my residency, about which I'll write more.

    Downtown I drove, a few of us architecture types were to gather at Mies' IBM building for a meeting. Many of the views from IBM are blocked by the new Trump Chicago,

    that's it looming on the left, with crazy, glossy windows. With the views blocked, some law firms, architects and other businesses have moved out of IBM and much of it will probably go condo. Not all of course. Eg, Perkins+Will architects just renewed their lease there. As for IBM, they're long gone and the owners have redubbed the place, 330 North Wabash.

    The good news is, not all of IBM's views are completely blocked by the new Trump Chicago. Here's a view up the river, from a southeast IBM corner office.

    From a south IBM window, looking straight down,

    (since it's not blocked by Mr. Trump) one can still feel the relationship Mies gave the building to water, and ice! Not unlike his early houses in Potsdam, the Farnsworth by the Fox River, the Lake Shore Drive apartments, the fountains by Seagram, etc.

    Look a little northeast,

    and you see the concrete Seventeenth Church of Christ, Scientist; by Harry Weese (1968).

    Looking west from inside IBM,

    Marina City
    . Looks great! (What a city, Chicago!) And Bertand Goldberg, who did Marina, knew Mies in Germany at the Bauhaus. Here they are in exciting manner, side-by-side, risen tall.

    Alas, Chicago Trump Tower looks worse than feared.

    One architect at the meeting, saw it through the glass and muttered, "Vegas." Another disagreed. She said the buildings in Vegas are better. I thought, "bad Houston." The glass is cheap, thin and warbly. And the darn thing will still grow a heck of a lot taller.

    Trump Chicago - a bad building - and Rem Koolhaas' IIT Student Center - a good building -- each make the Mies they stand next to ever more elegant.

    No one ever accused Donald Trump of elegance. But cities need elegance to raise them up. Remember, as I realized again this morning, cities are where we've cut down the trees.

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