The first of four editions of our self-initiated research project on urban transformation. 

The project originated from a weekly dialogue between the two of us. The fact that we work together, but live in different cities, Rotterdam and Zürich, became an advantage, rather than a limitation: the privilege to be immersed in two cities simultaneously, from which we could learn at the same time. 

We focussed on the topic of our cities in transformation, and more specifically, on how new buildings and renovations are announced to the public: through real-scale (1:1) representations, simulations and projections that are placed on the perimeter of a construction site, hence within the present context of the city. 

The construction site is a place, or moment, where the layers of past, present and future meet; it lays bare a constellation of material redundancy of what was before (the past), it shows what is envisioned (the future) and does this against the background of the city (the present). What captivates us, is that when a future image is materialised in the real scale (1:1) and placed within this real context, the site (city) transforms into a new experiental dimension for architecture, in which we can imagine and experience this new building through its simulation. The relation of this new building within its surroundings, therupon, can be thought of/pictured as well.

We started by observing architectural representations of new buildings on large billboards. Ever more technically advanced renderings make the architectural images representing the envisioned end-result increasingly realistic. Paradoxically, however, the resulting visuals also become more and more alike, exposing a constantly returning same-like smoothed colour scheme, ever returning stereotyped figures draw to inhabit the space, gleaming surfaces of buildings and streets, and standardized accompanying texts.

For as much as the architectural structure is presented as a promise, its semi-utopian picture contains within it the features of a non-space, of the ever-the- same or radical interchangeability that also characterizes much of our current global system. This compelled us to ask: what does this mean for our built environment? How do these corporate aesthetics relate to local specific contexts and what is their impact on architecture and the appearance and identity of our cities? Whose dreams, whose and what kind of ‘utopian vision’, is actually presented? And for who?

Especially at the moment when such images are confronted with the reality of a present context that not by far resembles the vision presented, the disconnection turns them into nothing more than a scenography or ‘Potemkin village’ - empty, and even absurd.



on-site: Belgrade Waterfront development / 360º

During a workshop week in Belgrade, we have been in conversation with architects, activists and residents which have opened up various perspectives,varying from critiques, concerns to contentment about the Belgrade Waterfront project. For us the construction site with the semi-utopian billboard images, texts and publications of Belgrade Waterfront and an exploration of the city 360° around the site, revealed a huge disconnection/conflict of the new developments in relation to the existing context and the city’s identity. We made a series of photographs and videos with residents that point out the absurdity of the 'reality' that is presented, in this development and in similar developments on a global scale.

To approach this same topic from different perspectives, expanding the dialogue from the two of us to a larger group and in different cities, has developed into one of our main research methodologies, alongside observations and experiments on-site.  

Thank you SCAPES:LAB, TUDelft Complex Projects, actors and actress (Milan, Nikola, Sanja, Veljko).


01 - The image of promises 2017
02 - Simultaneity in cities 2017
03 - Urban transformation as event 2018
04 - Evidence of the absent 2019

05 - Space in-between 2020

©rotative studio