Susan Braun writes “Get rid of the fake windows” in Minneapolis’ Downtown Journal (via Planetizen). Her particular gripe is with chain stores that try to replicate their auto-oriented suburban models in the city. She calls out CVS Pharmacy in particular for its fake windows, which she deems worse than blank walls because they pretend to be something they’re not. I wrote about windows as walls in When does a window become a wall?, and Braun has an elegant way of articulating the urban preference for real windows.
CVS…is taking the anti-pedestrian environment to an extreme. A review of three of their urban locations…yields at least 10 different ways to block windows or in other ways destroy an interior-exterior connection and a sense of street vitality and safety. As you walk by these stores, here’s the view: The backside of display shelves, blank walls built into the windows, blinds pulled all the way down, film over the windows, walls built into the windows with generic advertising on them, a view into a poorly organized storeroom, a view into the chaos of the backside of sinks and counters in the photo area, a wall with a shelf of gift bags stuffed with tissue paper (how symbolic — empty gift bags), a wall with a shelf of teddy bears with their backs to the street, and the crowning jewel is a display of once lovely prints, now an eerie green as the red ink fades, of the lost historic urban streetscape. I take this one as the ultimate insult….
In these examples, the window has been exploited in its crudest and emptiest form — as an image, not as an experience. It is window as wall, not window as view. Windows are about views into and out of buildings.
I like the simplicity of thinking about “window as view.” And Braun takes my discussion one step further to also consider views out of buildings, to consider the workers and shoppers inside stores looking out. Windows are for viewing in and for viewing out. Pretty simple, right?
Many Milwaukee Avenue storefronts, however, are victims of “fake-window syndrome.” What are the worst offenders in your view? Are there windows where it’s okay to obstruct the view? Any compliments for a store with a view?