Tuesday, May 08, 2012

New York Presbyterian Church - Rendering and Reality

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:

[Image source]

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.


  1. I am the architectural photographer Brian Rose--just a few comments. The church complex, which includes an older Deco factory building, is in a gritty neighborhood. Trains pass by day and night, car dealerships line nearby Northern Boulevard, and there is no natural landscaping around the building. What I like about the building is the way in which it engages this rough environment. It is a tough unpretty design itself, at least in the conventional sense. The church sanctuary is hangar-like, and windowed facade facing the parking lot reminds me of a public school building. The rendering obscures and denies the urban landscape that inspired the design of the building. It is a double falsehood.

  2. I pass by this church most days of the week while riding the Long Island Rail Road. It's not an ugly building, but it has hulking dimensions, and heavily (altho stylishly) barred windows. The surroundings are indeed gritty. Basically, it looks like a pretty prison.

  3. It seems appropriate that a church should appear like a prison, after all it is the function of churches to imprison people's minds so they will believe in medieval nonsense.

  4. I actually find the building somewhat intriguing, the surrounding car dealerships and department stores do not do it justice. One day I may even venture inside.

  5. It's just always amazing to see how much work and effort goes into creating something that looks so simple to others.


Comments are moderated for spam.