Housekeeping A View Without A Room
posted by April 3 at 13:52 PMon
If you haven’t yet, go read Jen Graves’s fantastic feature this week on Seattle’s obsession with views. It touches on real estate, the mountain-vs.-water debate, and the value of views that aren’t really “views.” Here’s how it ends:
An encounter with a view is visual, not participatory, like looking at landscape art. Beginning in the 18th century, there was a cottage industry of “view” painters—painters who made portraits purchased by gentlemen on their travels. At home, the paintings didn’t just show off the traveler’s sophistication; they also provided cold, damp, dim northern homes with false windows that “looked out onto” the warmth and light of southern climes. Seattle Art Museum has one of these paintings on display right now, in the European art exhibition on the fourth floor, by Luca Carlevariis, made around 1710. It depicts a storm brewing in dark clouds above the Grand Canal in Venice, but a balmy late afternoon hitting the side of the Doge’s Palace anyway, warming the people strolling there.[…]
It’s not just spectacular views that count. Underdog views can turn out to mean so much. Take the view out the window in front of me right now, as I’m writing this. I’m in my house in the Central District, looking out the front picture window. What I see is the front yard of the house across the street, which, instead of a lawn, is a slab of concrete fenced in by chain link. It sounds like a sorry excuse for a landscape, but it has animals. Several of them. Woodland-creature types. I can make out a deer, a bear, a baby bear, two frogs, a seagull, a pig, and two turtles. They’re garden sculptures with no garden. An elderly black couple lives in the house. By contrast, I’ve planted a high-maintenance number of trees and flowers over here. Every time I look out the window I’m embarrassed by the old stereotype: Why are white people so obsessed with lawn care?
Before the house in the Central District, we lived in a house in Tacoma that had what real-estate agents call a “peekaboo” view of Puget Sound (meaning we had to stand funny to see it). Before that, we lived in a loft in Tacoma, in a building obsessed with views of Mount Rainier, but we lived on the back side, so our big bank of windows had a “territorial” view of an old brick wall with a giant word spray-painted on it. The word was OPAL. That piece of graffiti figures prominently in family photographs from that time. One day we came home and it had been cleaned off. It had been the largest work of art we ever owned.