Here’s an idea for the construction industry that will never take off: realistic renderings of forthcoming architectural developments. I’m not talking about super-photorealistic visualisations that show off all the very best aspects of a proposed project; just renderings that genuinely reveal what the finished article will look like. They would show the project’s potential but also provide room for a few inevitable wrinkles and maybe even the odd wart.
What prompted the idea? A mesmerisingly beautiful video by Hungarian visualisation company Zoa Studio that features renderings for Viva Virgolo, a cultural development set high up in the South Tyrolean hills above Bolzano that is set to open in 2026. The serene film showcases the sci-fi-like architecture of Norwegian practice Snøhetta, all set amid an unimaginably lush landscape. Simply put, the scene is otherworldly.
Let me start by noting that beautiful Bolzano claimed the top spot in Monocle’s Small Cities Index for 2022 and Snøhetta’s projects, from the Paris headquarters of Le Monde to prefabricated Norwegian holiday cabins, regularly grace our pages. However, I also know Italy pretty well and even in beautiful South Tyrol, the vision presented on-screen was unrealistic.
A realistic render might have shown a queue of impatient tourists waiting to ride the sleek funicular or cleaners mopping up a dropped gelato. Perhaps even the odd pickpocket could be painted in – making their way around the unsuspecting but well-groomed digital crowd.
It might be a half-baked idea but I’d be interested to dig more into this dialogue with architects and developers. I’m sure that, like me, they also play spot-the-difference in comparing the utopian render, for say, a housing block in an “up-and-coming” neighbourhood to the completed project (the latter no doubt featuring additional graffiti, failed landscaping and neighbouring car-clogged streets).
Architects today are practising in a profession in which social media and image-laden design blogs often judge their craft at face value. But what they don’t show is real life.