It’s Always Sunny in Render-adelphia

603 Concord Ave.

603 Concord Ave.

Wouldn’t it be nice if we could all live in the dreamscape neighborhoods depicted in architectural renderings? The sun is always shining, traffic is minimal, and the people look so carefree and unhurried. The warm light in watercolor washes is so flattering, especially to building materials like concrete clapboard that up close don’t look so soft around the edges.

We have the technology to create virtual reality simulations of what proposed buildings would look like in their real-life urban context, yet major development projects are routinely approved based on old-fashioned renderings — the architectural equivalent of what fashion models are to real women.

This idea struck me today, as I walked past the new apartment building going up on the corner of Concord Avenue and Wheeler Street. A sign identifying the project includes one of the renderings, inviting a side-by-side comparison to the reality. Compare the photos below with the renderings:









The same developer is proposing another even larger project on New Street, and the renderings for that project make it look like Shangri-La.

If only…

75 New Street rendering

75 New Street rendering

75 New St. rendering

75 New St. rendering

For the uninitiated It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia is a TV comedy about a fictional Irish bar in South Philly named Paddy’s Pub. Lots of deception takes place.


7 thoughts on “It’s Always Sunny in Render-adelphia

  1. For the record, depicting buildings with little car traffic is perfectly reasonable. For Concord Ave, traffic flows freely for the vast majority of the day, only congesting at a few peak hours (beyond tiny, 10 second delays at the rotaries). But since most people travel through at the peak, it appears as if it’s always crowded. In a similar vein, for most of the time restaurants are near empty, but most people’s experience of restaurants is crowding: people believe their sample is representative, while it is not.


  2. That’s a good idea. From now on when I plan to go to a Red Sox game I’ll plan based on when they’re not in town. I can just about sit anywhere I want and traffic will not be a problem:)


    • Yet when a rendering of a building near Fenway park is released, it’s perfectly reasonable to not show game day traffic.


  3. Even the Planning Board members say they have difficulty interpreting renderings. I am just reading the transcript of a planning board hearing a year ago where the chair admits, “the rendering is always a challenge.” There are several other references to how the renderings don’t give them a complete sense of how the project will look. (see pg 121 on

    This post was not intended as a comment in the traffic on the parkway, but since Ted brought it up, there is almost never a time when there are not cars on Concord Ave at the rotaries. I took the photos posted here mid-morning on the Saturday of a holiday weekend (less busy than usual but the parking lot at Trader Joe’s was still very crowded). As I was using the crosswalk between Fresh Pond and Wheeler St, my dog and I were almost hit by a pickup truck with an elderly driver who did not stop for the red light at the crossing.


  4. And sometimes what gets built does not actually match the renderings. An example in Kenmore Square in Boston a few years ago:

    “When the six-story construction curtain was removed in late 2002, the public and city officials saw the completed facade for the first time. Local residents and the BRA were shocked, as the facade was quite different from the renderings. The developers had “value-engineered” the exterior materials, using inexpensive yellowish fiberglass panels and simplifying many fenestration details. Faux dormers were not even connected to the roof. Angry letters from local residents were published in The Boston Globe and a neighborhood newspaper declared “BRA May Not Let Hotel Open.” It added that the hotel would not receive an occupancy permit until the city approved the exterior design. The developers agreed to a $5-million dollar facade facelift.”


  5. Given its appearance, when the developer can’t lease/sell the units, perhaps it will be repurposed as a minimum security prison.


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