Idea for street-art project: Signs advertising fanciful future-use development plans

Posted by Rob Walker on November 9, 2009
Posted Under: Suggestions


There’s a little building around the corner from me with this sign posted on it — a rendering of its supposed future. It’s been there for years, and it’s pretty obvious that it’s at best a hypothetical future, and arguably a fictitious one. The actual building remains vacant, and in fact is for sale. Any development that may take place some day depends on someone buying it, and what they might want to do. Till then, it’s just another empty building.

Here’s how it really looks:


As you can see, the disparity between the rendering and reality is considerable. In the rendering, in fact, the actual extant structure is a mere add-on, complementing a bigger building. Which in point of fact exists nowhere besides that rendering. IRL, it’s a vacant lot.

So as I walked past this spot for the zillionth time recently, it occurred to me that there are vacant buildings with no discernible future all over town — all over lots of towns. Wouldn’t it be cool to create completely fictional, but imaginative and exciting, “artist renderings” of their hypothetical futures, too? And post those renderings on the actual vacant buildings? (Disclaimer: Maybe someone is already doing what I’m proposing here and I’ve missed it. If so, sorry!)

Consider this, another empty building not far from Murketing HQ:


Seems ripe for an imaginary re-use, doesn’t it? And taking a cue from the above rendering, this structure is really just a starting point — imagine it tacked on to a thrilling Gehry-like complex, let’s say. Or supporting an immense waterslide, a re-creation of the Unisphere, a heliport, an Oldenburg-esque sculpture of colossal banana. It could make for a great rendering!

Mount that rendering on the building, and you have a happy imaginary future to contemplate, brightening an otherwise moribund presence on the urban landscape that currently does little more than remind the passerby that the economy stinks.

Sadly I have none of the skills or personality traits necessary to make such a scheme into reality. But maybe you do! Somebody out there — start rendering the theoretical futures of our nation’s unused commercial real estate!

Further diversion may be found at MKTG Tumblr, and the Consumed Facebook page.

Reader Comments

In the spirit of your Significant Objects project, I have two suggestions:

• Tap writers to come up with stories as to why these buildings and projects now stand vacant/half-finished.

• Collect renderings of imaginary re-uses and have writers craft fiction based on the building’s hypothetical future.

Written By Braulio on November 9th, 2009 @ 6:52 pm

I like it! Maybe I will start doing this – Great idea!

Written By Jeff on November 11th, 2009 @ 2:57 pm

In Berlin and probably elsewhere, many buildings stalled in construction have full-size renderings of the supposed future product, on plywood covering the entire facade. Essentially they are a tromp l’oeil interpretation of what may or not be built. For something like it see: In many cases I think they are speculative office or apartment buildings, and stalled, the faux facade stays put.

Now, to these, one might add some signs of life: curtains, plants and cats in the windows, weathering and graffiti to the masonry, anything to add some life to them.

Written By Joe Roumeliotis on November 11th, 2009 @ 5:09 pm

Joe R: Very interesting, thanks for that.

Jeff: Keep me posted if you do. Couldn’t quite find on your site where you are based — Portland? I got some private correspondence about some other potential interest in someone pursuing, very tentative, elsewhere. I’ll update here as things develop, if indeed they do. But maybe I’ll also connect you & that party if something seems likely to happen.

Written By Rob Walker on November 12th, 2009 @ 9:23 am
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