Linda Poon is an assistant editor at CityLab covering science and urban technology, including smart cities and climate change. She previously covered global health and development for NPR’s Goats and Soda blog.
In a recent campaign, photographers from 27 countries shared what they see outside their windows every day.
What do you see when you look out your window?
In Abu Dhabi, you might get a dazzling display of the city’s lights. By contrast, you might get an awe-inspiring view of a city’s unique architecture in a nearly thousand-year-old place like Salé, Morocco. (My own window here in Washington, D.C. gives me a mundane view of apartment buildings by day, but a picturesque sunset by night.)
In a new campaign called “The View From Here,” by Somfy, a home automation company, photographers from 27 countries around the world were asked to take two photos of the view outside their windows—one during the day and another at night. Some “snapshots” offer a spacious view of hills and lakes while others reveal a city so dense that you could see right into your neighbor’s home. Each photographer also included a short written description of what they hear, smell, and see.
In Salé, Morocco, vehicular noise dominates the soundscape
“Heavy traffic ceaselessly flows up and down this street. Vehicles and motorcycles of all shapes, sizes and colors. The noise of these vehicles is the first and last thing I hear every day.
In the mornings I see the housewives washing clothes through the windows opposite me, and I hear the sound of dealers opening up their shops and cleaning vigorously. The activity of the dealers and housewives makes me feel optimistic for the new day, even though the vehicle noise makes me wake up early and feel sad.”
Past the metal roofs in Manila, Philippines, tall buildings are popping up
“From my window I can see the typical urban kaleidoscope of structures which are sprouting up in my area. Across the roofs of my neighbors (where cats frequently play at night), I see the tall, lean building which has recently been constructed. It’s the first of its kind to be erected in this area, but I am dead sure that a lot more will be constructed in the near future. I love taking comfort in this window after a long stressful day.
During rainy reason I can hear the splatters of rain on the metal roofs which sometimes sound like a melody. At other times the sound of the rain reaches a crescendo, and then we know our streets are likely to flood.”
It’s easy to get cozy with your neighbors in Lecce, Italy
“I can see directly into a neighboring apartment. I’m not sure how many people live there in total, it could be 3 or more. Sometimes I see a person cooking, other times opening or closing the window, but mostly I just hear them chatting and laughing. It’s nice and lively.
The people in the flat underneath mine have a child who’s apparently a bit of a terror. I know this because I can often hear them yelling. The noise gets quite annoying, I wish they’d speak rather than yell all the time.
When it’s dark, finally a cool breeze enters my apartment and brings in the smells my neighbors cooking their dinners. Time to cook myself.”
The captions add extra context, but you can already learn so much just by looking at the snapshot. In fact, blogger Andrew Sullivan used to hold weekly contests on his blog, The Dish, where he’d post a view of an unnamed city and invite readers to guess the location. And, perhaps not so surprisingly, there were often readers who guessed correctly based on what they could see in the photos. (The contests have ended, but it’s worth going through the archives.)
Drawing upon Sullivan’s idea, here are some more photos from Somfy’s campaign, with the name of the city hidden in the caption. See if you can guess where each photo was taken.