Whether from a Central Park penthouse or our fire escape, the love of a great view is embedded deep within us all
I've lived in New York for 10 years and this is my first yard. During the warmer months it's lush and leafy, but when the green recedes you can see the chaos of tangled wires and mismatched fences. And then you've got the crazy-quilt geometry of the fire escape. This view feels like Brooklyn to me -- unself-conscious, cobbled together, a little "what can you do?"
I asked a few friends to send me snapshots of the views from their homes and workplaces. The first thing that jumped out at me was that most people's views don't match their cities' stereotypes -- a Dallas apartment surveys a walkable street, a Parisian flat overlooks a highway. And some cities hardly look like cities at all. Hong Kong, for one, looks like Jurassic Park.
-- Will Doig
Providence, R.I. (College Hill)
I moved to Providence this summer after 10 years in Brooklyn. Now my view is of houses whose occupants I've met and see daily; gone is the sense of bigness and anonymity. If the spirit moved me I could knock on their door and ask for help or sugar or a ride to the airport. I doubt I will do that.
-- Rachel Hulin
Chicago (The Loop)
The view from my office at the Obama campaign headquarters is such a great representation of Chicago. We are in the heart of the Loop, downtown Chicago where the El trains meet and circulate. On the right is Michigan Avenue, a main artery with towering buildings both old and new showing Chicago's affinity for beautiful architecture. On the left is my favorite part, Millennium Park, and in the distance you can see the shining "Bean." The park is a green refuge among the Loop's crazy urban bustle and a welcome view away from the bustle of my office floor as well!
-- Kate Holloway
This picture shows the view to the east of my apartment, past the périphérique (the highway dividing Paris from the banlieue, or suburbs) to a stadium in the 14th arrondissement. I'm not quite inside Paris, just like I'm not quite French! I love that patch of bright green beneath a dark sky.
-- Jessie Aufiery
Dallas (Swiss Avenue Historic District)
People think of Dallas as a bunch of planned communities and suburban sprawl, but I live in one of the city's oldest neighborhoods, on Swiss Avenue, in a funky two-story carriage house behind a beautiful old home built in 1915. The bedroom looks out onto my breakfast patio below, still leafy and green in January. When I moved back to Dallas from New York in June, people mostly said, "Why?" New York may be the greatest city on earth, but I couldn't shake my sadness. Here I feel calmer, happier, and anchored by my family, who live 10 minutes away. It can be surprising, the places that feel like home.
-- Sarah Hepola
Portland, Ore. (Northeast)
I live in a well-developed area, along a so-called unimproved road -- the rumor is that the city ran out of funding while paving, and a few lucky roads were left unaltered. My fiancé and I actually adore the unimprovement, because it makes us feel like we're living in the woods, and serves as our own personal dog run. And it's so Portland to have a few random unpaved streets right in the middle of the city, and zero people complaining.
-- Arianne Cohen
Savannah, Ga. (Downtown)
Savannah from my window wears her individuality on her sleeve and her bodice. Wrought-iron-garnished antebellum homes conceal themselves behind a rare and incongruous modern structure, secret gardens of good and evil are just hinted at by the peek-a-boo of the palm trees, and an old cathedral stands kissing distance from an even older synagogue. Savannah has never sold her vintage soul for a mess of new-school commercial pottage. Looking at her through my window, I feel calm and at home in this place that straddles tradition and rebellion, religion and iconoclasm, the expected and the unconventional.
-- Deganit Ruben
Buenos Aires (Villa Crespo)
In the summer, Buenos Aires wakes early, loud and hot. Here, I'm hidden from the street, greeted by the squeals and shouts of kids: a bilingual school has its schoolyard beneath my window. Their games are played in a language much like the one I speak, an eccentric mix: hijo de idiot, gimmie la pelota! It doesn't look like home, but it sounds like it.
-- Joey Rubin
Hong Kong (Happy Valley)
Hong Kong was pressed out of two strong geographical elements: a thin harbor and a precipitous hill. A city was squeezed out like toothpaste. The harbor is shrinking, but the hill is still there; it's just that you can't see it behind that lattice of steel. But that's where you'll comprehend the creation myth of Hong Kong. Close your eyes and you can hear the waves and smell the harbor; lean back and you'll fall on a lush, green chair.
-- Jimmy So
Atlanta (High Point)
When I look out my window, I see a mix of evergreen trees and postcard-ready craftstman-style houses surrounded by manicured lawns. It is the perfect setting for me to lull myself into the fantasy that the sounds, sights and energy of Atlanta are much farther away than they are in reality. My home and my neighborhood contribute to the state of mind that I desire when I get home from work: peace, calm and solitude. I feel that I get the best of both worlds: a residential suburban setting and easy access to inner-city convenience.
-- Dwight Elliston
West Hollywood, Calif.
I have a studio apartment. These are the only windows in the room; they look onto the building across the street and the intersection I live on. The palm trees are always green, the sun from these two windows gives me ample light from sunrise to sunset. This is Los Angeles to me, sunny and bright, consistently optimistic. The view and the light from these windows (although relatively benign) make my small studio seem like a larger loft. I love the blue sky, I love the palm trees. I love Los Angeles with all my heart.
-- Gary Cotti
San Diego (Point Loma)
Looking at this view often reminds me of everything I'd rather be doing other than staying indoors working in an office. But the parking lot and gas station take me back to reality. It reminds me why I work here: it's so I can live here, too.
-- Nancy Lin
What you can see: tiny cobblestone streets, mature trees, close neighbors. What you can't see: people clean up the kids' toys every night from the front yards, independent coffee shop around the corner, and folks on the street from Colorado, Kentucky and the U.K. Oh, and in every single one of these houses is at least one Steelers throw pillow probably put out for display purposes.
-- Jeff Zemsky
How should we build the cities of our dreams? How do we create the urban spaces which reflect our values and the ways we want to live? In cities around the world, the future is being created now -- and Henry Grabar will chronicle the most exciting and innovative ideas. Follow him on Twitter at @henrygrabar.