Streams

The City Out My Window: 63 Views of NYC

Friday, November 27, 2009

Architect and illustrator Matteo Pericoli says that we don't choose our window views, they choose us.  In his new book,  "The City Out My Window - 63 Views on New York," he meticulously draws the window views of 63 New Yorkers, both famous and ordinary.

“Your window view is like the pupil of your eye,” Pericoli says. “It’s the frame of the one image of the city that all of us have. We don’t look at it, we just absorb it, and it’s engraved in our brain.”

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Daniel Libeskind, architect: “The view from my window captures the poetry of New York. It is full of emotion and geometry… and yet it is emotion which is at the core of architecture. What an inspiring theater of memory!”

Pericoli’s previous projects have also been detailed representations of cityscapes. Released just after September 11th, his book “Manhattan Unfurled” was two 37-foot-long drawings of the East and West sides of Manhattan, as seen from the water. At John F. Kennedy airport, Pericoli created a 400-foot long panoramic mural, “Skyline of the World.”

It was a personal experience that led him to realize that views out our windows are physical objects that New Yorkers are attached to.

“When my wife and I moved out of our Upper West Side apartment in 2004, and all the packing was done and the boxes were ready, I turned to the view that had unwillingly accompanied me for seven years, and I thought, ‘Oh my God! I have to take it with me!’ I felt that if I didn’t take the view with me, a big chunk of me would be lost.”

His first thought was to physically remove the pane of glass from the window and take it with him, thinking there may be a “film” attached to the glass onto which the cityscape would be etched. His strong attachment to the view surprised him, and he had an insight into what his next project should be.

“I instantly realized that what lay outside of my window did not belong to the city,” he said. “It did not belong to all those buildings i saw, like the Riverside Church, but it belonged to the sheet of glass that separated me and also connected me with the city.”

The book includes short statements from each of the owners of the window views Pericoli draws. Among them is Mikhail Baryshnikov, Philip Glass, David Byrne, Mark Morris, and Wynton Marsalis.

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A rendering of a person’s window view is not going to tell you everything about a person, Pericoli says, but it does add one layer of knowledge about who he or she is. He cites the artist and musician David Byrne as an example.

“Imagine that you know David Byrnes work, but have never seen his face, then one day you see a photograph of David Byrne. You haven’t learned any details or specific information about his work, but the photo does add to what you know about him. I think these images add one layer of knowledge about a person, and about a city that is an organism, that is something alive.”

Two people refused to let Pericoli draw their views because they considered them too personal. He says that those incidents only validated what he thought all along — that window views are personal and unique, and may give profound insight into the life of it’s owner. “It was really what I was looking for,” he says. “The confirmation that the view from someone’s window is the true hidden New York, the city that lies in peoples brains.”

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