Using census data, the People Party! app generates representative populations for architectural renderings
The rendering of a building or interior should be the result of weeks or months of design thinking. Yet according to architect Ritchie Yao, one of a rendering’s most compelling features—the scale figures that fill a proposed space with life (also called “scalies”)—is mad-dash work. “In that last-minute run-up to a presentation, we would probably devote three days to collecting images of people and cutting them at special angles,” says the partner of Brooklyn- and Detroit-based architecture and design studio Dash Marshall. “We’ve made that a lot faster with this app.”
Since February of last year, Dash Marshall has been developing an app that automatically populates renderings at any stage of completion. Dubbed People Party! and currently in beta testing, the app generates colorblock-style images of pedestrians, shoppers, workers, and other human figures in a diversity of ages, shapes, and skin tones. Users can then upload their renderings, which appear as the backdrop to the vibrant scene. (The app does not record IP address or NDA content.)
Fear not, aesthetes: Relying on this new tool doesn’t mean relinquishing artistic control, as keystrokes and other easy maneuvers allow you to add or subtract people, switch their poses, or change the overall color palette of garments. For architects, those few clicks can save hours scrolling the internet’s cutout libraries for a desired posture. “We’re generating a population that you can then compose,” explains Yao’s partner Bryan Boyer.
But People Party!’s mission extends beyond convenience. The concept also strives for greater sensitivity of race and origin—a consideration of representation not so commonplace in today’s rendering platforms. Upon opening the app, users are directed to choose one of eight cities in which to situate the rendering. People Party! then generates figures that represent the demographics of that city, as extracted from census data. After all, notes Yao, if you’re designing a rendering set in L.A., shouldn’t the people in it accurately reflect the local population?
Acknowledging that census numbers gloss over differences between urban neighborhoods, Yao says Dash Marshall is considering adding options to People Party! that let users create images with more granular accuracy, not just in terms of skin color but also mobility and body mass index.