Monday 29 May 2023


The headline caught the eye:

Legend of Zelda game sells 10 million copies in three days -

The astonishing statistic made one ponder the impact of these games on perceptions, understandings, and ambitions. The images used to create the games might not be the most immediate attraction, but they must play a role in how the world is seen given the enthusiasm for the package. One has to ask: Do games show us what to see in architectural renderings, that in turn prompt our expectations for design outcomes? Are architectural renderings closer to the games world than any lived experience; or is it that the technique defines the expression?

Whatever might be, with the popularity of the game, the graphics become an integral part of one's awareness, interests, judgements, and values; the positive attitude towards, and involvement with the game appears to be so engrossing, players must readily be accepting the identity created by the computer graphics, feeling and sensing in concert with them.

One is left wondering about how CAD is changing us and our world; how we approach, attend to, and recognise it.

The proposition is: does CAD have only one particular outcome with images; one particular ingrained feel and expression? Are we all captive to a system that is managing us and our expression and impressions as we delight in the games?

The situation is serious, and needs our attention; the images tell the story; illustrate the congruence - the surreal sense of space and flighty mass.



Sunday 28 May 2023


It was only on reading the headline that the phrase was recalled; its inferences quietly reverberated in the memory of some recent writings.# One had forgotten this catchphrase that has become a part of our language, a common term for the unspoken aims of seeing, especially in photography, that is revealing. Indeed, one now recalls landscape vistas being regarded with great satisfaction, described as being beautiful enough ‘to photograph,’ or ‘to paint;’ sometimes it is said that the view ‘would make an ideal postcard.’ The proposition is that the recorded image, produced as painted or printed, has to be different, in some way special, presenting ‘a perfect picture.’ It is a circumstance that reveals a particular, bespoke ambition to achieve something flawless – something ‘picture-perfect’ encapsulating some mysterious, emotional, unspoken visual ideal.

The Oxford dictionary tells us:




completely lacking in defects or flaws; ideal.

‘a picture-perfect summer day.’

The promise of the clever headline was that the winner would not only enjoy the perfect holiday, whatever this might be, but would also be in a ‘real’ picture-perfect environment too, as revealed in the published photographs of the brochures. One sees such ‘picture-perfect’ places identified on the roadsides of tourist routes, marked locations from which photographs can be taken – ‘viewpoints’ offering strikingly ideal, ‘camera-ready,’ picture-perfect perspectives.

Does this halcyon vision with all of its expectations have an impact on architecture? We know its consequences in architectural photography, best seen in the dislocation between the preferred published image and the everyday Street View snapshot taken nonchalantly in context; see - the world having more cameras than ever before, and constantly communicating with photographic images, the experience of manufactured ‘perfection’ is so ingrained in our understanding that we do not even give it a critical thought; it has become the expected norm for everything. It is this way of seeing that perceives things freehand as a sloppy mess, rather than anything usefully informative or expressive, let alone as ‘art,’ unless it is ‘branded.’^ One could see the situation much like one desiring a ‘partner’ who is a ‘perfect’ AI construct: an astonishing concept, but see below.* The search for the ‘ideal appearance’ has changed from an innocent recognition of experienced beauty sought to be recorded, to the careful self-conscious manipulation of the selected image, ‘adjusted’ to fit a preconceived ideal.

The professional photograph.

Having this ambition that prefers the ‘picture-perfect’ presentation has its impacts, not only with the creations of fakes, fabricated images, but in the reading of the ‘ideal’ and the establishment of the expectation that such unique perfection can be achieved, replicated in new work, be this in illustrations, or in the ‘real’ everyday world. So it is that we see architectural projects being photographed professionally in order to achieve this outcome, to have things that are especially ‘picture-perfect.’ Designs come to be understood and considered best as photographs rather than as liveable spaces and places that tend to be a little messy – a let-down; imperfect, even if this be just dust and spiders’ webs, or a book ‘out of place.’ Are our eyes and our expectations guiding intentions with aspirations to create new, picture-perfect buildings, structures that are shaped for startling, uniquely styled appearances rather than for the enrichment and happy accommodation of the lived experience?

Does the search for things picture-perfect drive the intent that seeks to highlight singularity in architecture: see below+ - that desire the make something special, something differently bespoke; something that has no confidence in its ‘spoiler’ context, wishing only to stand self-centred, alone, isolated, ready to be photographed or to be seen with the photographic eye. Such an approach to architecture only enhances disconnections rather than providing life and its living with an integrating fabric that can act as a subtle catalyst for contentment, without generating division with hype driving divisive envy in support of individuality and identity.

We seem to forget the call of tradition to be wary of creative, ‘original,’ personal expression. These indulgent declarations were never seen as anything good or positive; this distinctiveness was perceived as an unnecessary distraction, a distortion, a perversion, both misguiding and irrelevant. We can see the impact of today’s interest in things personal, where nothing has any relevance or value without a name; and if the name is fashionably preferred by the media, it holds value - extraordinary monetary value if nothing else: while Francis Bacon’s paintings were pulling in millions, those of his talented colleague were only claiming a few thousand pounds. We need to put our efforts into communal values that might help unite rather than separate us into individual, self-interested, ‘creative’ beings. Persons and personalities only drive division when, more than ever, we need integration; an interest in wholeness. The difference can best be envisaged by referring to the stars: the humbling and exhilarating experience of the wholeness of the night sky, compared to the humiliating adoration demanded by ‘stars’ as defined by Hollywood,, people who seek to stand alone posing for admiration and adulation. In a court deposition, Donald Trump claimed that he was a ‘star.’

Architectural renderings.

We make our architectural renderings ‘picture-perfect;’ but while everything we produce as illustrations might represent flawless ideals, we do live in a less than perfect world. Our buildings have contexts, and we come to know them intimately, both functionally and emotionally, as we layer them with a shambles of meanings and memories; and our concerns and hopes; such that, as ‘lost places,’ - see: Returning to Nothing: The Meaning of Lost Places, by Peter Read, Cambridge University press, Melbourne, 2009 - we lament their passing even though they are never picture-perfect: there is always more here than the ‘less’ of modernism.

Harry Seidler interiors.

Yet architects still aim for an ‘ideal,’ typically talking about getting the work ‘photographed,’ when it has already been snapped by themselves, apparently with the aim of capturing something not seen by the eye. Some architects, e.g. like Harry Seidler did, appear to prefer their work to be seen as photographs, apparently wanting to look at them as such everyday, with selected arrangements for ordinary living being those chosen to be photographed: one might explain the situation as having the ‘architecture’ picture- perfect, always ready as the lived, camera image, replicating the photographic appearance in real life.

Here we are asked to live the photograph; and we see buildings designed for this reading, creating photographic ideals in formed place and space – all ‘picture-perfect,’ as seen in the photograph. One can see the situation more clearly when one thinks of the actions taken to get a place ‘ready to be photographed.’ The removals and rearrangements that were once physical, are now able to be ‘shopped.’ Knowing of these contrived manipulations, we need to assess the impact that this strategy has on us and our well- being. The world is now talking about mental health more and more. Is this because we are being asked to live photographically, with photographic expectations, in social media as well as in architecture, being constantly unable to meet our own, programmed intentions; the elusive ‘fake’ ones - the ones that have been stimulated by picture-perfect images that leave us in a state of constant dissatisfaction, with no contentment whatsoever, ever? It is a sad and seriously concerning state of affairs that has everyone striving for, yearning for, impossibilities, or behaving as actors performing picture-perfect roles being snapped as reality in promotional, influential selfies. It is like everyday cosplay.

Perfect teeth.

Perfect scrambled egg.

The picture-perfect world is problematical. It is becoming more dominant daily, in all aspects of life. We need things to change; we need to become aware of the beauty of things ordinary in a Zen way: ‘Before enlightenment, chop wood, carry water; after enlightenment, chop wood, carry water.’ We need to learn to love ‘natural’ imperfections: a fractured rock; a mossy rock; a broken plate; a hand-shaped tea cup; a cloud; a grimy wall; a worn pair of shoes; . . . and do away with the pretence of fabricated expectations that demand ‘creative’ singularity.

Alas, even these extreme expressions have been taken over by the picture-perfect world that indulges in slick, clever difference as picturesque deformities. We need the lived experience of these things; the exoteric feel of flesh and blood, not the esoteric glow of light and slight of hand. We need to feel the world again; experience its wonder, its ordinary enchantment, not that astonishing perfection framed by the illusory lens. This does not mean that we develop an interest in quirky photography, that approach which reveals strange, chance events, poses, occasions, and other ‘funny’ matters ‘for the record,’ ready for social media’s delight that will ‘get the Internet talking.’ We need a new quiet humility and honesty, and more; but these words alone are too easily manipulated to support one’s cause with cunning spin. It is life that needs attention, with its being, its wholeness, lived as a contented enrichment.

Royanji Temple, Kyoto.


The headline in Google News:

WIN a Picture-Perfect Holiday with Bupa Travel Insurance




One has to comment on older techniques that now look naively crude, like the cardboard models and coloured renderings of building projects that were the norm in the 1960-80s, and looked spectacular when originally presented. The photographs of these when see with today’s eyes show rough cuts and scribbled lines that now annoy, and are seen as clumsy, messy work lacking the slickly suave sophistication of the CAD presentation that comes with the startling ‘look no hands’ prefection. In the same way, freehand detailing that was far more informative than any CAD detail, and could be produced much faster than any CAD document, is now considered dodgy, unacceptable as a legal document. One wonders how Shakespeare’s work might be received today with its scrawling texts.