Dezeen Magazine

Es Devlin with her Egg installation

Architectural renderings are "troublesome and problematic" says Es Devlin

British set designer Es Devlin has questioned the use of renderings to sell property because the glossy images often don't match up with the completed buildings.

Devlin criticised the "weirdly trippy" discrepancies between architectural visualisations and realised projects during an interview with Dezeen last month.

"The pictures of buildings before they're made is something I've been incredibly dissatisfied with," she said.

As an example, the designer recalled an Instagram post that Dezeen editor-in-chief Marcus Fairs uploaded in May 2017, showing Herzog & de Meuron's 56 Leonard skyscraper in New York's Tribeca.

In his caption, Fairs pointed out the "awkward cheap-looking" white window surrounds on the building, and noted that they didn't appear in many of the original visualisations of the project.

"Marcus Fairs posted a little comment that the Herzog & de Meuron building didn't look… that the white parts of the facade didn't match up to the renders," Devlin said.

"So this kind of discourse or dialogue between the render and then the building itself to me is troublesome and problematic, and weirdly psychedelic."

Devlin – who has shot to prominence thanks to her sets for performers like Kanye West, Beyoncé, Katy Perry and The Weeknd – made the comments at the preview of her installations for BIG's The XI towers in Chelsea.

The trio of designs at the sales gallery in the nearby Meatpacking District includes a giant model of Manhattan that is curved and mirrored to form an egg shape (main image), a larger scale model that rotates above a pool of water, and a wrap-around video in which BIG founder Bjarke Ingels describes his ideas for the twisting buildings.

Each is intended as an alternative, and addition to, typical renderings used to market architecture projects before they are complete.

"Say we hadn't done this [installation]," Devlin said. "There'd be a gorgeous render of Bjarke's building, and it would be circulating. It would look shiny. There'd be a sunset. It would be glinty. It would look expensive. F*ck that! That doesn't communicate anything about what the man's made. It pisses me off."

Today's software makes it possible to create digital images that are indistinguishable from photographs. In a 2013 interview with Dezeen, leading visual artist Peter Guthrie said that hyper-realistic renderings like these of buildings are changing the way people perceive architecture.

However, Devlin said that she is not impressed by those who can digitally render objects with as much detail as photos.

"I have lots of people applying to my studio that are experts in photographic rendering," she said. "And they show me how they can make a coffee cup look like a real coffee cup. And I'm like, get a real f*cking coffee cup! Take a photo of it!"