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The Hypothetical Development Organization


If the name isn't descriptive enough, the Hypothetical Development Organization is a group of folks who generate what they call "implausible futures for unpopular places". They'll take an abandoned or under-developed site and come up with an interesting use for it, develop the concept, and deliver with often otherworldly renderings. In many cases, they actually print out Coming Soon! style announcement boards and post them at the existing site.

I like that they make cool images and that they're playful and interested in improving things, but their approach is so close to the way I see things, and the way that I want to practice some day, that I was terribly disappointed when I found out that the designs don't have any teeth. As their name suggests, the designs are always purely hypothetical. There is no pretense about designing buildings for the future; these people design drawings, renderings, and concepts. Now, I don't mean that as a value judgment; I'm not saying what they do is bad. In fact, I don't think it's bad at all. The limited scope allows them to be crazy, which is good, and they generate creative buzz in the areas that they target. And I can understand why they don't even attempt to make real things (other than real ideas...) because it's difficult, time-consuming, and expensive.

What I am saying is that I initially thought that they were a real company that did real stuff, and that I'm disappointed that they're not [they didn't mislead me; I just misunderstood]. Imagine if there was a company that went from place to place doing unsolicited design work for unsuspecting places, and then pitched amazing proposals to the owners/decision makers and helped them make the design happen. I know it's kind of silly, but I think it would be great. One day someday I'll try it out.

Not to keep going back to my own work, this is the approach I took with my graduate thesis (briefly mentioned here). I identified a focus area in downtown Auburn and proposed new uses for all of the abandoned and under-valued sites within it. I wanted to see if I could come up with stuff that I thought was appropriate and had value, and I wanted to experiment with ways of producing descriptive and attractive visuals. The whole exercise was meant to be a run-through of what I hoped to do professionally: design big changes, and sell the ideas. It went okay.