A 16-year-old Vancouver teenager is taking to her popular TikTok account to share her astute and humorous commentary on buildings – the good, bad, and ugly – around the world.
Fast-talking and engaging, Louisa Whitmore creates the type of content that gets the wheels turning and conversations started for her growing number of followers (266.4K at time of writing) on the popular social media platform.
“I’ve always liked looking at buildings, especially ones that are visually interesting,” says Whitmore. “A few years ago, I went on a family vacation to New York City and got to see all these amazing buildings up close, like the Chrysler Building and the Empire State Building. Ever since, I’ve been really interested in researching architectural design.”
It was on this trip when the now infamous, supposedly swanky condo building at 432 Park Avenue caught her attention due to its unique but seemingly impractical design. “It is so disproportionately skinny, and it stands out from the New York City skyline in a way that made me super uncomfortable when I saw it in person,” says Whitmore.
Her long-held distaste (“I despise it,” she adds) for the building got TikTok users talking earlier this year, after her opinions were validated when she came across a New York Times report released about the eye-catching high-rise.
Holding nothing back, the report documented the residential fails of the once coveted building, including floods that cost millions of dollars, faulty elevators, and walls that “creek like the galley of a ship.” The dramatic piece was as alluring as a shameless soap opera to many, who relished in the irony that some of the world’s wealthiest condo residents were experiencing such woes in their pricey digs.
Seemingly predicting its fate, Whitmore mocked the building in a post from a now-deleted Instagram account from 2018, as she informs viewers in the TikTok post that compared the striking building to a toothpick. “If I jumped on the top real hard, it would break and fall over,” she says. The teen says she felt “vindicated” after reading the damning New York Times article.
As Whitmore highlights – pretty disturbingly – an outside engineering firm found that a shocking 73% mechanical, electrical, and plumbing components weren’t up to the design. What’s more, nearly a quarter of them posed a threat to human lives(!).
Whitmore took the occasion to also highlight other major design fails of the architect’s previous work. London’s “Walkie Talkie” building (officially named 20 Fenchurch St.) made headlines in the past decade for everything from its “ugly” design, to the head-shaking facts that it was so reflective that it actually melted cars, and that it created such an intense draft it could knock people over.
The video quickly made its rounds on TikTok, and has been liked 103.3K times.
“It took off, and I was so shocked by the response to it,” says Whitmore of the post. “I realized that a lot of people wanted to know things about buildings, so I thought it was a great opportunity to start talking about more buildings and architecture stuff!”
Her account now offers commentary on everything from futuristic condos and urban libraries to isolated country homes.
“I learn about most of the buildings I talk about from suggestions, which is amazing because people have very specific opinions on buildings that I wouldn’t even be able to find,” says Whitmore. “I feel so lucky that they share those opinions and suggestions with me. I also use the internet for a lot of my research (‘new buildings in Vancouver,’ ‘cool parliament buildings,’ or ‘spite architecture’).”
While she has no shortage of opinions on the design flaws of buildings, Whitmore also creates conversations centred on design done right. “Lately, I’ve been enjoying looking at design renderings for buildings that haven’t been built (or won’t be built),” says Whitmore. “And some of them are insane! Like Casa Brutale in Beirut, or the ‘Rain Water Catcher’ in San Jose, California.”
While the teenager is looking forward to summer and enjoying her last year of high school, she’ll continue to post on her ever-growing TikTok account.
In the meantime, one thing’s for sure: it doesn’t look like 432 Park Avenue is going to have a lineup of Gen Z, would-be residents at its statement-making doors any time soon.