Trompe l'oeil, or fool the eye, is a style of painting in which architectural details or scenes are depicted with photographic clarity. This style, used centuries ago by Roman nobility, is now enjoying a resurgence in the United States. A leader of this revival is Richard Haas, an internationally recognized artist from Chicago. In 1985 he used trompe l'oeil to turn the Thunderbird Fire and Safety Equipment Corp., Phoenix, Ariz., into a masterpiece of illusion. Two sides of the tilt-up building are trompe l'oeil.

Haas is not the only designer to use trompe l'oeil to enhance the exterior of tilt-up buildings. In California, some designers began using the technique in the mid-1980s. Owners and developers wanted to trade the "plain-jane" appearance of some tilt-up buildings for buildings with interest, dimension, and color. In 1985, a California architect designed a tilt-up building using rustification strips around the windows, achieving the illusion that the windows are recessed. Actually, the 6-inch-thick panels are flat; but this is only apparent from within 15 feet of the building.