Defining Place

Alternative urban futures

As a creative agency that works regularly with architects, developers and placemakers, we’re often creating imagery for places that don’t yet exist. These places might be ‘in the works’ and just a few years from completion, or they might be places that exist for the moment only in the minds of architects or developers. It’s up to us then to create imagery that makes these places seem tangible, evocative and believable in the minds of the viewers.

But what if we looked further into the future? What might the landscape look like in 5, 10, 50 years? How might design respond to the changing needs of a growing, city-dwelling population?

So we set ourselves a challenge: to speculate on alternative futures for our urban landscapes, and to use CG imagery to tell a story where innovative design makes the world a more interesting place to live.

The project is about looking for opportunities to transform the lost and unloved urban spaces in our cities by imagining a different future for them. To create new ideas which might be defined by temporary uses, new technologies and transient stories as much as the permanence of bricks and mortar.

Inspired by the growing trend for 3D printing using recycled materials and the increasing potential of 3D printing as a construction method we designed an imaginary ‘alternative building’ for these non-spaces, bringing it to life through evocative, painterly CG imagery.

The speculative structure - a collection of individual 3D printed pods - suggests a semi-permanent, malleable building; a multi-purpose space that can mould to the changing needs of our modern cities, and the transitory communities that occupy them - from city visitors needing temporary living space, to urban gardeners, to groups seeking meeting space.

The potential offered by 3D printing buildings is really interesting. Could 3D printing allow designers to continually change the fabric of a building in a sustainable way? Could occupiers add and remove features at will to create a type of building in which evolution and change is an intrinsic property?

The designs respond directly to a derelict site in the heart of Manchester city centre, just a stone’s throw from our studio. We decided to choose a space close to home, since it is a space we’re recognise and yet perhaps never really relate to. We wanted the challenge of telling a new, alternative story about a familiar ‘non-place’.

The images seek to offer a new purpose for this space, whilst still accounting for the natural pedestrian thoroughfare it has evolved into over time. The designs build out from the surrounding environment, hoping to integrate the structure with the evolving city, whilst suggesting something very different to what was there before.

We’re currently working on the next stage of imagery (and possibly some miniature 3D prints) for this project, so watch this space!


Michelle Collier

Date published

10 November 2014