The image above, from the new plans for the Port Lands, reminded me that Mark Kingwell points out how the random people added into architectural renderings often bear little relation to how pedestrians in the real world might respond to those plans once built.
The city would have to do a lot of maintenance and programming work to get a relatively isolated lakefront promenade that busy on a snowy winter day. But this is by no means the worst example — at least the people in the image look like they belong. Some architecture images add people with little or no consideration of how people might actually use, or not use, the proposed space.
It would be nice if Photoshopping of people into architectural plans was controlled by some agency that analyzed how pedestrians would likely actually use it and added them in accordingly. Some of the more grandiose building plans, once shown denuded of people as they will be once built, might not end up looking so good.
In the absence of such an agency, it’s healthy to remember to always look at the pasted-in people in architectural renderings with a skeptical eye. Would people really walk there? Where would they come from? How would real people move in that space?
Here is the passage from Kingwell’s Concrete Reveries where he identifies this issue. He is referring more to models than to images; with images, the issue is not so much a lack of people, rather adding them too easily with no relation to the architecture:
In the theoretical discussions of architecture, often enough in the practice of architecture itself, there are, to put it bluntly, no people. Often despite genuine effort on the part of some, the drawings and models of the built environment’s creators act to reduce the streets surrounding a building to blank white avenues, denuded, pedestrian-free, neutron-bombed. Too often, depite Rossi- and Jacobs-influenced rhetoric of new urbanism, buildings are conceived and planned not as felt responses to need but as ordered patterns of intersecting planes and masses. Stylized plastic couples, a dog-walking hausfrau and a lone briefcase-toting businessman are glued down to show scale, but there is no sense of the teeming mass of people who might rush toward those doors every morning, jam together in those too-narrow corridors at break time or, perhaps worst of all, simply abandon that hopeful courtyard for the dead space it is.
Mark Kingwell, Concrete Reveries: Consciousness and the City, p. 140.