What are we looking at? The Selective Release of Architectural Imagery

There is an increasing trend in the staged release of architectural imagery on major projects before submitting planning applications.  Thankfully we are well past the helicopter imagery age dominated by images from viewpoints few would ever see and of architectural models that give little sense of scale or views at street level.

The trend is a welcome focus on street level views, especially of the animated public spaces within a scheme and vistas and links opened up.  A classic example being the release of images for PLP Architecture’s project to redevelop Sampson House and Ludgate House in AJ, what will the scheme look like from across the Thames, no idea.  There are many other examples, perhaps the most breathtaking was the recent exhibition for the redevelopment of Sainsbury’s at Vauxhall – an exhibition focussing on reopened railway arches and ground floor active frontage uses but giving no clue as to the height of the towers on top, and at a riverside site.

The aim clearly is part of the PR/Engagement strategy for the site.  Release images of ‘urban design goodies’ first to get people exited, new open spaces, dramatic new views, life breathed back etc.  Do those images say much if anything about the overall site vision, architectural concept, how it will look from middleground views, is massing and form – no.  So we have imagery of streetscape but not wider urban design – let alone architecture.  So im setting a new rule on here which in vain I hope the professional press follow, not to publish images of schemes which dont allow you to form some impression in your mind of what you are looking at in terms of the form of the project in space. A 30 second sketch on the back of a napkin can allow you to do that – thats all we need, as in the recent skecths for Battersea Power Station for Chelsea, which showed that a large part of the pitch will spill over onto an adjoining waste and concrete wharf in different ownership showing straight away the scheme was a non starter unless it bought and shifted them.

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