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An Obsessive Cataloging of New York's Windows

If you live in Manhattan, you might recognize your own window in this curious collection by illustrator José Guízar.

Sidewalk-facing windows in Manhattan are like year-round advent calendars for the voyeuristic: Peep into one, and you might be rewarded with the sight of a million-dollar parlor rehab from Interior Design, a spandex-clad sexagenarian sweating through a Zumba workout, or what seems like 200 cats packed into 100 square feet of trash and newspapers.

Given the wealth of visual gold lurking behind the panes, it's kind of awesome that José Guízar ignores it completely for his illustration project "Windows of New York." Guízar's interest in windows ends at the very surface of the glass; he wants to savor the pure architectural beauty of these urban apertures, their shape and color and the occasional A/C unit or houseplant. So each week, the 26-year-old Mexican native takes a walk around Manhattan to photograph windows that cry out to him. Later, in his studio, he'll draw them in a fashion reminiscent of the lovingly minimalistic cartoons of Chris Ware.

Recently, Guízar took the time to answer a few questions about his curious collection of windows, which he has called an "ode to architecture and part [of] a self-challenge to never stop looking up":

How did you get the idea to draw these windows?

I think my favorite thing to do since I landed in NYC is to get lost in the city streets. Any time I feel lonely, angry or stressed out, exploring beautiful streets is my therapy. I think it was at the end of last summer when I decided I wanted to start an illustration project that involved the beautiful NYC architecture I was smitten with – one that would keep me periodically creating new stuff, and that somehow would immortalize my times in New York. Windows started to become a fixation so soon I knew I had to do something about it.

Why windows? Why not doors, mail slots, awnings, etc.?

There is something about windows that catches my eye like no other thing in this city. I really don't yet know what it is.

What is your process?

I've been collecting photos of interesting windows that catch my eye for a few months. I take those photos and draw some rough sketches which slowly transition into the final product. The real challenge is to make an inanimate object look alive and detailed with very limited colors and a minimal illustration style. It takes some time but it has become a very therapeutic weekly ritual.

What medium are you using?

Two legs, a camera, a pencil and Adobe Illustrator.

Have you ever seen anything inside you wish you hadn't?

Thank God no – I try not to look inside!

Has anybody ever caught you checking out their window, and if so what's their reaction been?

They haven't. However, I've seen lots of tweets from people that have found their own windows as they scroll down the site. They seem pretty excited!

Images used with permission of José Guízar.

About the Author

  • John Metcalfe
    John Metcalfe is CityLab’s Bay Area bureau chief, based in Oakland. His coverage focuses on climate change and the science of cities.