What's Outside Your Window?

Each ad offers multi-layered glamour. Glimpsing only their partial profiles, we project ourselves into the role of the young condo dwellers. They invite us to imagine sharing their new life, being them or being with them. And they in turn contemplate the scene beyond their windows and feel its transformative glamour—the promise of a skyline's mysteriously glistening windows or a river's passage toward unknown destinations. Although the two ads are almost identical in composition, they are in fact selling two different ideals. The Metropolitan promises "the future of the city," a bustling alternative to the suburban life typical of Dallas. Rector Square, by contrast, offers tranquility, an escape from the noise, garbage cans, and graffiti of other Manhattan neighborhoods. "What’s outside your window?" the ad asks, and the project's website depicts the unappealing alternatives. As aesthetically formulaic as these two ads appear, they work by evoking the different yearnings of different audiences. Glamour's real power comes not from the formal composition but from the responsive audience’s imagination.

[As always, click the photos to see larger versions. Thanks to Laura Thomas at SHVO for obtaining a copy of the Rector Square ad and to its creators at Agency Saks for permission to reproduce it, here and in the book. And thanks to my friends at D Magazine for finding a Metropolitan ad in their files and to Keith Walker at DTZ Rockwood for reprint permission.]