Renderings don’t always paint a pretty picture

Architectural drawings key to a project's image

Aug.August 27, 2013 09:22 AM

Developers can use architectural renderings as a powerful tool to drum up support and enthusiasm for a project, as in the case of Extell Development’s One57. But renderings can also be an effective weapon to attack projects, as in the case of Vornado Realty Trust’s stillborn 15 Penn Plaza.

An early rendering of One57, for example, “brilliantly uses light to make the building disappear as it goes up,” said Andrew Dolkart, the director of Columbia University’s historic preservation program. Dolkart is a staunch opponent of the building who once described the ultraluxury Extell tower as the city’s most hated building, but he admitted the rendering was impressive.

“It’s like it’s dissolving into the sky, and I don’t really see the hideous colors,” he told the New York Times, describing the multiple shades of blue that will extend up the face of the building.

A spokesperson for Extell Development said in a statement to the Times that the rendering accurately represented the building’s “massing” and “tonality.”

“I would say your point of view is key,” said Craig Copeland, a principal at Pelli Clarke Pelli Architects. “A rendering is just a tool to amplify discussion.”

But sometimes renderings can work against developers. When Vornado Realty Trust was looking to build 15 Penn Plaza, near the Empire State Building three years ago, renderings from opponents of the project surfaced that showed the silhouette of the Empire State Building and the proposed building seen from a faraway graveyard.

In a 2010 Council hearing attended by the Times, David Greenbaum, Vornado’s New York president, said he was “somewhat troubled by the grossly misleading renderings that have been delivered to the press.” Although it did win Council approval, the 15 Penn project was eventually shelved, the Times said. [NYT]Hiten Samtani

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