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The Plan To Block Out Trump Tower's Sign With Giant Flying Pigs Is On

By Stephen Gossett in News on May 3, 2017 4:37PM

Rendering: 'Flying Pigs on Parade'

"It's a bizarre thing to create, but it's a bizarre world we live in."

That's how Jeffrey Roberts, of architecture design firm New World Design Ltd., describes his plan—now officially on the go—to at least temporarily recruit "flying pigs" to block the "contentious" Trump Tower sign, which continues to serve double duty as presidential ego massage and staunch protest magnet.

Roberts and NWD unveiled the project back in November, shortly after Trump's election. But at the time, it seemed like a very hypothetical proposition—a when-pigs-fly one, if you will. But after months of working with the city, doing his logistics homework and sourcing and confirming vendors for necessary materials, Roberts announced that the installation, "Flying Pigs on Parade: A Chicago River Folly" is indeed positioned for flight.

The design is a visual cue to both Animal Farm, George Orwell's all-too-relevant classic of moral compromise and political authoritarianism, and Pink Floyd's Battersea pig, as featured on the cover of the prog greats' 1977 classic (Orwellian) Animals. (Rogers Waters, of Floyd, reached out to NWD with his blessing.) But it contains more multitudes, too.

NWD notes:

"Primarily it serves to promote thoughtful, considered dialogue in a political climate that has become increasingly reactionary and divisive. The four pigs are literal representations of characters in Orwell's novella, but they incorporate other references as well, ranging from a nod to Trump’s alleged "Miss Piggy" comment (directed toward a former Miss Universe) to the Trump penthouse interior color scheme."

Chicagoans will have the chance to dissect those layers in reality, it increasingly appears. Roberts told Chicagoist that two meetings he's had with the city have been "very positive," although negotiations are still being hammered out. The plan is to rent a single construction barge to park on the river, which will anchor the four floating, Trump-obscuring 30' x 15' pig balloons. Since the logistics are so complex (involving the coast guard, security and other factors), it'll be a one-time float in Chicago, either in late August or early September. It'll likely be an early weekend morning to avoid impeding river traffic. "We want to deploy this thing in a way to not jam up the city for a long time," Roberts said.

The project still needs help as far as funding, too—and it's not cheap. Given balloon fabrication, barge costs, security and permit fees, and other costs, Roberts and co-conspirator Erich Stenzel are asking for donations here. They intend to "take it to Vegas" also, if all goes as planned.

If the pigs ultimately don't fly, in the face of too-steep costs or administrative backlash, all collected money will be donated to charity, according to NWD.

It's been a while since Chicago has seen the more whimsical sides of anti-Trump protest. No mass moonings or collective bird-flippings in a while. But Roberts said this approach just happens to fit his and his partner's background and aesthetic.

"It really goes back to a basis of design," Roberts said. "We''re a group of architects and designers... We're not highly political people, but with so many ridiculous actions taking place, we thought the strongest way to respond was with us using our design skills."

It's a lot of work, but in a sense, Trump himself keeps the project humming. "Everyday I read the news, I'm reinvigorated," Roberts said.