Monday, December 27, 2010

Jerusalem snout houses, part 2: simulation versus reality

This isn’t an ad for an apartment in the project "simulated" above.

The simulation, taken from the website of a construction company active in Jerusalem and elsewhere, typifies the promotional material by which new buildings in the Israeli capital are marketed. People make fateful home-buying decisions based, at least in part, on just this kind of image.

What I want to do is to point out the differences between a residential-project simulation as seen on a computer screen or in the pages of a newspaper or brochure, and the actual experience of living with the buildings themselves. That such differences exist may seem self-evident, and indeed it ought to be. Regrettably, however, the various elements of the Israeli real estate community − planners, architects, contractors, and buyers - behave as though these differences do not exist.

The simulation - from a "distance"

When we look at a simulation, we are essentially looking from a distance that has been pre-determined by the simulation designer. And from this distance, a project such as the one featured above may seem rather nice. The overall symmetry − identical buildings rising above a garage “platform” − confers elegance, while the light-colored Jerusalem-stone facing neutralizes what might otherwise be perceived as a hulking massivity. The simulation designers have thoughtfully placed some humanoid figures on the sidewalk around the project and (if you look closely) on the balconies. One does not notice the tininess of these figures compared with the project colossus, because, after all, one is looking from a "distance." The designers have planted gardens on the lowest residential level and allowed some virtual flowers to spill over the stone wall of the garage, like glaze dripping from the top of a bundt cake. That these flowers are too high up for the diminutive humanoids on the sidewalk to see is not something that the simulation viewer is likely to notice. After all, one is looking from a "distance."

The reality - from up close

This is a “snout-project” par excellence.

The project’s entire ground level consists of a garage that protrudes considerably beyond the residential space. In the contractor's simulation, from the artificial "distance" created by the computer program, one sees this garage as a "platform" for the residential units that rise out of it. At ground-level, from a human perspective, one sees a bare stone wall with windows and driveways revealing ... the grim and dusty interior of a garage.

At ground level, you don't see an "icing" of greenery or flowers at the top of the wall. You don't see potted geraniums on the balconies. You don't have any sense of life -- whether plant, animal or human -- emanating from the project. Not a very pleasant reality, IMHO.

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