Qualification project

Representations of Future Cities. Visualizations of Urban Development Projects in Lagos and New York

Research department: Economy and Civil Society

Funding Organization: German Research Foundation

Duration: 04/2018 - 12/2021


Digital visualizations play an important role in urban planning and architecture practice today. Photorealistic renderings are produced in ever increasing quantities during all kinds and stages of planning processes. Questioning the production and use of photorealistic images can enhance understanding of the different rationalities that are being negotiated in urban development processes.

In a comparative gesture grounded in global urban studies, the dissertation project seeks to investigate photorealistic renderings from two urban development projects in Lagos (Nigeria) and New York (USA). The main empirical material will consist of a collection of visualizations related to the two case studies. A broad image database will be created for the purpose of categorization. The analysis will be framed by theories about the political economy of urban development processes with a special focus on theories from the Global South, using the concept of conflicting rationalities in urban planning.
These concepts will help to deconstruct notions of past and future, as well as other topics detected in the visualizations. It is assumed that meanings take very complex and global as well as local shapes in photorealistic renderings of urban development projects.

The goal of this project is to ask how photorealistic renderings in urban development projects communicate planning rationalities, if there are recurring elements in the visualizations from Lagos and New York and if the images change planning processes.

The dissertation is supervised by Prof. Dr. Philipp Misselwitz (Technical University Berlin) and Prof. Dr. Gabriela Christmann (IRS)


Mélix, S., & Singh, A. (2021). Die visuelle Refiguration urbaner Zukünfte: Zur Prozessualität von digitalen Architekturvisualisierungen am Beispiel von Hudson Yards in New York. In M. Löw, V. Sayman, J. Schwerer, & H. Wolf (Eds.), Am Ende der Globalisierung: Über die Refiguration von Räumen (pp. 231–256). (Re-Figuration von Räumen; Vol. 1). Transcript. https://www.transcript-verlag.de/978-3-8376-5402-8/am-ende-der-globalisierung/?c=311022751
Mélix, S. (2022). Renderings: Bildwelten zur Legitimation von spekulativen Stadtentwicklungsprojekten in Lagos und New York. Sub\urban: Zeitschrift für kritische Stadtforschung, 10(1/2), 97-126. https://doi.org/10.36900/suburban.v10i1.595