Opinion

Every Architectural Rendering Needs an Alexander Calder Sculpture

Alexander Calder
Elements of Alexander Calder’s “Trepied” (1972) in Shigeru Ban Architects’ design for the Mount Fuji Shizuoka Airport (image courtesy Shigeru Ban Architects)

What is it about Alexander Calder sculptures that makes them irresistible to the artists who create architectural renderings? Calder is apparently the industry standard — with distant seconds Mark di Suvero and Louise Bourgeois — for lending airs of cosmopolitanism and permanence to any given school, museum, condo, park, office, library, or airport project, while also providing a sense of scale and burst of color. Want to lend your sleek, monochrome office park a touch of whimsy? Calder! Light-filled airport terminal looking a tad sterile? Calder! Public plaza feels a little empty? Calder!

But how did Calder’s sculptures come to be the architecture industry’s go-to signifiers of worldly sophistication? In addition to their recognizability as iconic modern art objects, their bold colors and geometric forms make them eminently easy to turn into digital 3D objects. A search of readily downloadable architectural models reveals many Calder sculptures ready to be dropped into the architectural rendering program of your choosing and then sited in luxury housing complex and urban park mockups.

If the following selection of architectural renderings — all posted within the past year on architecture blogs including Designboom and World Architecture News — is to be believed, the world’s cities will soon feature as many public sculptures by Calder as they have Starbucks franchises.

Alexander Calder
Alexander Calder, “La Grande Vitesse” (1975) in Bjarke Ingels Group’s rendering of the Middles East Media Headquarters (image courtesy the Bjarke Ingels Group)
Alexander Calder's "Portrait of a Young Man" (1945) in PinkCloud's rendering of the 42nd Street Greenway (image courtesy of PinkCloud)
Alexander Calder’s “Portrait of a Young Man” (1945) in PinkCloud’s rendering of the 42nd Street Greenway (image courtesy of PinkCloud)
Alexander Calder, "Flamingo" (1974) in OMA and OLIN's rendering of the 11th Street Bridge Park (image © OMA / Luxigon)
Alexander Calder, “Flamingo” (1974) in OMA and OLIN’s rendering of the 11th Street Bridge Park (image © OMA / Luxigon)
Alexander Calder
Alexander Calder’s “Flamingo” (1974) in OMA’s rendering of the Park Grove Condos (image by bloom, courtesy OMA)
Alexander Calder
A black version of Alexander Calder’s “Flamingo” (1974) in Laurent de Carniere’s proposal for the Guggenheim Helsinki (image courtesy Laurent de Carniere)
Alexander Calder and Mark di Suvero
Alexander Calder’s “Five Swords” (1976) at center and Mark di Suvero’s “Clock Knot” (2007) at bottom right in Studio Libeskind’s rendering of the Mizner on the Green development (image courtesy of Mizner on the Green)
Alexander Calder, Mark di Suvero, Richard Serra
Works by Alexander Calder, Mark di Suvero, Richard Serra, and Mariko Mori in OMA’s rendering of the Shanghai Lujiazui Exhibition Centre (image courtesy OMA)
Alexander Calder and Louise Bourgeois
Alexander Calder mobiles, a Jeff Koons balloon dog, and Louise Bourgeois’s “Maman” (1999) in O1A’s proposal for the Guggenheim Helsinki (image courtesy of Office One Architecture)
Louise Bourgeois, "Maman" (1999) in the GH-04380895 proposal for the Guggenheim Helsinki
Louise Bourgeois, “Maman” (1999) and a glimmer of Alexander Calder’s “Flamingo” (1974) peeking over the roof in the GH-04380895 proposal for the Guggenheim Helsinki (image courtesy of Guggenheim Helsinki)
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