Monday, February 5, 2018

Idealized Renderings

If you have anything to do with planning or architects, you've seen your share of building renderings. I've long had thoughts about the ways the spaces around the buildings are portrayed: what kinds of plants, people, cars, and other parts of daily life get shown, and how idealized are they? For instance, it's always summer in renderings, when (as we know) it is winter for a good portion of the year.

I recently saw a startling pair of images that highlighted this disconnect. It's part of an exhibit at the University of Minnesota's Anderson Library marking the 90th anniversary of the University Archives, and the topic is the history of the University itself.

The two images are of the Washington Avenue bridge, which connects the east and west bank campuses. It was designed and built in the mid-1960s as a double-decker, with motorized vehicles on the lower level and pedestrians and bikes on the upper level. Given our cruel Minnesota winter, the upper deck has a central enclosed walkway, with open walkways on either side of it.

Here's how the interior was rendered in the proposal:

And here's how it really looked about 25 years ago:

Those staffed kiosks would be nice, but did anyone really think they made sense in an unheated (and uncooled in the summer) space? There are no benches inside, either, though maybe there should be. I wonder if that's an attempt to discourage homeless people?

The other thing that I notice is how clean everything looks in the rendering. There's never any muck in architecture. The real picture is pretty neat, compared to daily reality, but still, the concrete floor looks messy. Even the way the ceiling is portrayed contributes to the idealization of the rendering. Choosing a gray tone that matches the floor exactly makes it look harmonious. Reality has more tones and therefore visual clutter.

I understand from another part of the exhibit that the builders did originally install the walkway with fully windowed sides, as shown in the rendering, but someone kept breaking the windows, so they changed to the partially walled format shown in the photo. Another bit of reality not taken into account.

And of course there are the guys in ties and gals in skirts and heels who finish off the lack of reality in the rendering. It was the mid-1960s; I don't know how far off those people are, but they're definitely not in winter, or carrying much compared to the average student.

1 comment:

Miz Fitz... said...

I crossed that bridge hundreds of times between 1972 and 1976. As I recall, the walkway was "heated" in the winter by overhead infrared units. In November and December, it was full of vendors selling stuff like macrame and serapes and cheap jewelry. In 1973, when the energy crisis hit, they stopped heating it and the vendors went away.