A Tale Of Two Renderings: “Dressing Up” Bad Urban Design

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To put it lightly, the images below are kind of hilarious.  Allow me to explain.

The bottom image in the pairing below was the first architectural rendering for the proposed Courtyard Marriott near the corner of East Avenue and Alexander Street in Rochester several months ago.  After pushback from local individuals and groups who argued that the building didn’t blend with the look and feel of the surrounding streetscape and featured front-facing parking that counters urban form, the developers offered a second rendering pictured in the above image.


You see it right?  The fact that it’s literally the same building?  Of course there are minor modifications that make it feel a little more “urban.”  But besides an unnecessary glassy corner and a little more brick, the most noticeable difference between the initial rendering on the bottom and the new rendering on top is the addition of a sweeping cloudscape and the dramatic warm kiss from the long golden rays of an evening sunset.

Don’t get me wrong.  I am not against this project.  It simply replaces an old and unattractive hotel that currently exists on an area of Alexander Street that, to be honest, has very little aesthetic from the perspective of the street anyway.  The new Marriott is one of those “I can live with that” changes to an area that you just kind of roll with because it’s not necessarily hurting anything.

The issue I have is two-fold.  One is the aforementioned revised rendering that simply adds more brick, prettier windows, clouds and sunset lighting.  The second and most important is simply that the front-facing parking lot has not changed.  The “set-back” structure is one that screams car-centered suburban form, smack dab in the middle of an urban neighborhood.  Heck, I wouldn’t have complained about the design in the first rendering if the building itself would have simply engaged the street with parking in the rear.  But no amount of warm evening light and puffy clouds will turn bad form into an acceptable urban design.

Let’s focus on real change that addresses form and functional content, not superficial variables that lack real effect!