Wednesday, October 12, 2011

On Picture Windows

I live in an area with many small houses built in the 20's and 30's, largely Craftsman style, if that means anything to you. The thing I consistently notice here is that most of these older houses go out of their way to feature a large picture window in the living room, often framing the family dinner table, and, just as often, that the blinds in these houses are almost always drawn, day or night.

What is it about society that has shifted from wanting to display the living room and bring the world in to pretending that it isn't there? It makes me think of the father in A Christmas Story who was so proud to display his newly won leg lamp in the living room picture window, because that's where you put things you want the neighbors to see.

The picture window is a carefully composed portrait you present to the world. Another analogy may be that it is a TV station you are broadcasting 24/7. And maybe therein lies the difference.

Are we so over exposed to a constant media influx that the still image no longer holds meaning for us? Is that quaint portrait our picture window presents to the world now just another unwanted piece of unnecessary information? Is it that we no longer believe in the power of images, having become savvy after being marketed and lied to so many times? Is it that we no longer have an obligation to the outside world to compose ourselves as a part of a whole? Is it simply that our living rooms have turned inward, turned as all things now are to align with a proper viewing angle for the TV? I don't know whether it's a good or a bad development, but I look at all the closed curtains in lit houses as the bus chugs past and I can't help but recognize that there is some incongruity with the past that is now awkwardly frozen in our architecture.

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