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Imagination Moves 

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All of us have seen the signs. They depict bold, soaring new structures soon to rise from desolate sites. Most never happen. Among the more notorious recent examples was the shining Buck Rogers facade of the Trump condo tower that eventually vanished like a mirage. Some cratered in the real estate crash, but others were pipe dreams from the start, the entrepreneurial equivalents of poetic license. They did, however, inspire a new civic enterprise, the Hypothetical Development Organization, which takes development to the next level by designing projects everyone knows will never happen. That eliminates the awful ritual of raising people's hopes up only to dash them. Instead, these apocryphal projects serve an uplifting purpose by existing only in the imagination, which actually is all professional real estate developers give us anyway — only their visionary exercises are hobbled by having to appeal to financial backers and bean counters without a poetic bone in their bodies. Unfettered by fiscal gravitas, these hypothetical developments exist on the more ethereal level of thought that appeals to, or even challenges, our collective urban imagination. So here a ghostly CBD building becomes a glossy, mirrored glass-clad Museum of The Self where a familiar sculptural "thumbs up" icon on the facade inspires passing Facebook users to instantly "like" what they see. A theatrical facade on lower Magazine Street serves as a Loitering Center in counterpoint to "no loitering" zones around town. There is even a Theater of Escape (pictured) offering to transport travelers to imaginary realms via certifiably nonexistent technologies. Such services aren't cheap, but consumers can cash in their karma at Karmalot, which looks like a futuristic storefront from hell. Unlike most ordinary buildings, hypothetical developments arise from the inner landscape of poets and dreamers who meander aimlessly on foot or bicycle, or gaze sagely through the windows of streetcars at structures only they can see. — D. Eric Bookhardt

Through May 7

Hypothetical Developments: Renderings of Improbable Architecture

Du Mois Gallery, 4921 Freret St., 818-6032;


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