Back in March, we reported on the so-very renderings at S3 Architecture-designed 738 Grand Street in Williamsburg.

Permits for the svelte, industrial-style building between Humboldt Street and Graham Avenue were approved in July. The six-story, 10-unit building will boast the usual accoutrements of Williamsburg new development — brick, painted steel beams, steel and glass windows, roof deck, shiba inu, poltergeists.

738 Grand Street roof deck

Rendering: S3 Architecture

At the time, we were just amused by the other trappings of the scene (exact quote: “Shiba inu! Cuffed denim sweatpants! Salad and wine for breakfast!”). But BrickUnderground did some digging on why phantom people are so common in new development renderings, and the reasoning is purely practical.

“The ‘ghosted’ look may have its origins in the ‘long exposure’ treatment you see in a lot of architectural photography,” Brian Lindvall, a Partner and Director at dbox, told BrickUnderground. “But in most cases, it’s probably much more pragmatic; the people are semi-transparent so the viewer can see parts of the design that would otherwise be blocked.”

Humans in renderings help to convey the scale of the buildings, but architects may not have the time or inclination to flesh out the, well, flesh-and-blood elements.

Dbox does not use “transparent figures” in its renderings, Lindvall added; the dbox process for more realistic imagery involves photographing models on a green screen in lighting that perfectly matches that of the rendered scene, then integrating those photos into the rendering.

Sounds like an exhausting process. Makes you want to toss in visual shorthand for a human presence, such as this bedroom rendering for Pierhouse at Brooklyn Bridge Park. Shoes are definitely easier to draw than people:

Pierhouse bedroom shoes

Or better yet, put a log on it:

Pierhouse bedroom log


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