Implausible Futures for Unpopular Places: the Hypothetical Development Organization

Hypothetical Development Organization, at DuMois Gallery, New Orleans. Photo: Charles R. Franklin.

Writer Rob Walker (who penned the definitive profile of Boing Boing for Fast Company magazine last year) has a wonderful article up at Places, at Design Observer. In "Implausible Futures for Unpopular Places," Rob tells the tale of the Hypothetical Development Organization, a conceptual group he co-founded that creates imaginary architectural designs for abandoned places and buildings in New Orleans and posts the designs for the public to see. Rob provides a brief history of "architecture fiction" dating back to the sixties. Pesco previously blogged about the group here, but Rob's article sheds new light on their fanciful activities.


First, we identify a suitable building: Something that appears neglected, and seems to have no immediate prospects for a future use. In short, we choose an unpopular place. Next we devise a hypothetical future for that structure. Specifically, we strive to make this future blatantly implausible: maybe provocative, maybe funny; above all engaging. Then an artist creates a rendering based on the imaginary concept. This is printed onto a 3' x 5' sign, modeled on those used by real developers. That sign, finally, goes onto the building.

In December 2010, our stories began to appear around New Orleans. By March of 2011 we had presented ten of them to the public at large. This effort concluded with a display of duplicates of each of the HDO's initial creations at an art gallery in New Orleans. The project was realized thanks to the efforts of an astonishing crew of contributing artists, with the financial support of far-flung strangers.

Strictly speaking, nothing more need be said. But my purpose here is to tell the stories behind these stories, because this project raised a number of questions among those who have come into contact with it. In some instances the answers are interesting.

Read the rest here.

Apart from contributing to Design Observer and the New York Times, Rob is also the author of Buying In: The Secret Dialogue Between What We Buy and Who We Are, highly recommended. They also have a book out about this project.

(thanks, Josh Wallaert, also noted on Bruce Sterling's blog)

"The Grow House," Rendering by Carey Clouse