The Built Environment

Urban hikes, remote art studios, a cultural catalog of rats, sci-fi structures imploding in Japan.

All this and more can be found at The Built Environment, a blog dealing with our constructed reality. You should check it out. Sample post below.

Last Saturday, my friend Dan asked if I’d seen the New York Times story in which columnist Rob Walker talks to Geoff Manaughabout “people textures,” the small, always pleasant, neatly fictional people inserted into architectural renderings. I had, but his bringing it up prompted another read.

Here are some of the best bits:

In the past…people were often completely absent from architectural representation, so letting figures into the frame humanized and presented buildings in a social context. “The funny thing is how it has become its own subgenre,” [Manaugh] continued. “You can take the most random rendering and just stick in a few people—someone listening to an iPod, somebody reading a newspaper, maybe a couple holding hands, some guy playing an acoustic guitar. Suddenly it’s meant to make the entire building beyond critique; it’s already part of our city.”

In a sense, then, people textures became a form of rhetoric, whether they seem drawn to the buildings they’re placed near or even if they seem oblivious to them in a way that suggests a new structure is a natural part of the streetscape. “You tend not to see people spraying graffiti or a homeless person sleeping in the alley,” Manaugh observed. “Or rats.” [But] every so often, student projects will play with the form—Manaugh recalls examples involving people textures in gas masks or having sex or urinating on the street.

The observation about rats is interesting, only because it’s one more item in a growing cultural catalog that will be published here soon. In the meantime, are you in need of a job? Are you a visual artist or graphic designer? There might be a future career for you in people textures:

There is a small people-texture industry. Realworld Imagery sells CDs containing, for instance, 104 “Business People,” for insertion into renderings, for about $150 a disc. A site in Britain, Falling Pixel, offers, among others, “120 Casual People” (which sounds like a passable indie movie) for about $70.

This last image is a photo of an exhibit by BIG. Their people textures? Legos.

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Second photo.

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