I'm often intrigued by the differences between renderings and photographs, especially since advances in the realism of the former and the digital nature of the latter are increasingly bringing the two together. There is still a strong divide between the two, because renderings serve to envision a possible reality, and photographs are one document of reality. Yet when I recently visited the website of the New York Presbyterian Church (NYPC) -- designed by Doug Garofalo, Greg Lynn, and Michael McInturf -- their sugar-coating of reality certainly caught my eye.
So here is the building as seen by the NYPC:
And here is the reality:
[Image from Google Street View]
It's been a year or two since I've been by the building, and the Street View is probably older than that, but I'm positive it doesn't look like the rendering. For one, there is a large parking lot on this side of the church, as is clear in this photo by Brian Rose. Second, in order for all that grass to exist, the landscape would need to bridge over the adjacent railway/yards. Third, the view is looking east, away from Manhattan, so the skyline could not be visible like this unless they flip the building.
So, in the case of NYPC, a rendering (or is it a doctored photo?) is being used to portray the church in an idyllic setting, to position the church relative to the city, and to present the building's form in its most flattering aspect. Visitors confronted with the reality will be in for a rude awakening, but many church goers may actually "see" the church as depicted on the NYPC website regardless of its reality.