Saturday, January 3, 2009
This new apartment building in our neighborhood, on 7th Avenue, partakes of the fashion for big walls of glass, which is the thing in new buildings in New York, and feels like an import from Miami or other warmer climes. Since so many city apartments have smaller windows, or face other buildings, or dwell much of the day in shadow, you can see why people would be drawn to big expanses of glass. Not to mention just how interesting it is to look at the city's shifting welter of detail.
But this has the odd effect of creating these lit, open-to-the-street lives. I'm not sure how much you can tell from this photo, but from the street it's easy to watch the television sets in the apartments on the second and third floor, not to mention watch the people: a woman in the kitchen preparing something, a child wriggling out of his pants, a man walking through a room looking for something. I wonder if they feel at all conscious of being looked at; do they enjoy that, or do they edit it out? If I'm walking by at night, I can't take my eyes off the mirror on their living room wall, or the surprise of movement as a person walks through a room, even though it makes me feel like a voyeur. How can you be a voyeur if scrutiny is so invited?
It seems an invitation, from the designer of the building to the dwellers therein: turn your life outward, go about your business spotlit, in the air, just above the street, so that all the world sees your achievement, the accomplishment that is your address. As well as to the casual viewer: this life could, or maybe couldn't, be yours.