We are continuing on the path of my exploration of Rob Walker’s book The Art of Noticing. Today we are starting a collection.

In this case, I’m not scouring vintage stores for Hummel figurines: I’m taking a walk and looking for specific things. I chose to look for windows that are half circular. (sorry-there are no pictures today- I felt weird taking pictures of the windows of people’s homes- but just imagine a circular window, and cut it in half.)

I set a time limit for my walk- one hour. My goal was to walk around and see how many half circle windows I could find. The result was I spotted between 75 and 85 windows. Here are my observations:

  1. When I chose a half circle window, I thought I would really have to search far and wide. Spoiler alert: They were pretty easy to spot.
  2. I chose to do this walk in Manhattan’s Upper East Side, around the area of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. The UES is known for it’s very high price rents, and to go along with that, meticulous buildings. This turned out to be a smart place to window shop because there is much gorgeous and unique architecture.
  3. Most buildings that operate as stores do not have half circle windows. I think I only spotted one store with a window as such.
  4. Older apartment buildings were quite likely to have a half circle window, many above doorways
  5. Townhouses/brownstones were likely to have them on upper floors, many over the middle window of a tradition three window front
  6. The half circle windows seemed to have thicker glass, making me wonder if it was original, and needed to be kept to a preservation code
  7. The windows were found in older homes. There were no newish building with half circle windows (I don’t know much about architecture, but it appeared the 1960’s was the dividing line as to when half circle windows went out of fashion)
  8. I’m guessing half circle windows are more difficult to repair and insulate

SO far, this was my least favorite observation walks. I don’t know if I was having a bad day, but I didn’t get as much thinking and ideas our of this particular exercise. I had trouble thinking of what to “collect” and I think I was looking for something harder to spot. But, months later, I still don’t know what would have been a better object to collect in this manner.

What would you like to walk around and collect? What do you think would be a fun thing to look for?

35 thoughts on “Day 4 of Observation Walks

  1. Interesting! 💯
    I will like to pay attention and notice the emotions and behaviors of people in a particular place e.g. market, parks, shops. It’s pleasing to me to try to comprehend whatever is going on at that moment. I suggest you try it too, it’s fun and enlightening.

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  2. I googled half circle windows and to my surprise discovered the style is centuries old. The plethora of styles, countries, and details was deliciously overwhelming and fascinating. If I were to observe such a style I would need to live in a city not the suburbs. But I think it would be more evident and way more interesting a walk to take in ancient European cities to find half circle windows.
    My architectural ignorance made me think of the styles of homes that sprung up in the 1980’s and 90’s in Florida When vaulted ceilings were a thing and every new home had high stylized half circle windows you couldn’t reach to dust. I had one of those home in the 90’s . The arched part did not open, was very pretty, let in a lot of light and I didn’t cover them up with fluffy curtains. I had neighbors who used balloon styled curtains to cover them. (Ick). They were a big deal in Florida in the 80’s and 90’s. And they were indeed very pretty in suburbia. Homes became styled with giant open great rooms and usually had a few arched windows. I had forgotten that they were popular style in the 16th century too.

    I think that would have been an interesting walk in a city. Down here it would be in specific neighborhoods. If I were traveling, different places offer different kinds of scenery. When I visited Atlanta to see me youngest son a few years back, we perused old Atlanta and enjoyed southern styled homes with stacked porches. He purchased a new build styled from the old school plantation stacked porch styled home. ( His research of his property showed that an old plantation after the civil war was divided up into half acre and acre plots of land and recorded by the city in the 1930’s). He learned the name of the original plantation owner from city records. So he and I went on walks and drives to see Atlanta’s architecture. There were the stacked porch wood homes, specific brick etc. so I think the place you are living in or visiting affects where you go and what you want to observe. There are areas of old Ft. lauderdale where you can visit the historic Stranahan House, the first post office, walk along the water and see glimpses of the past. I enjoy looking for historical elements of a place, so I look for historic areas. I don’t always like nature walks because I enjoy architecture. I think cities provide old and new elements of fire hydrants, people, buildings etc. In suburban life you can’t walk to too many places.
    Another interesting blog. Thanks.

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    1. I am a huge fan of architecture…I love looking at old homes, touring them. It’s so fun for me, seeing the little details, what makes one thing different than another. It’s my favorite part of traveling

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      1. I agree. Absolutely! One of the best parts of traveling is experiencing the architectural elements of different places. It is actually painful for me to watch when they tear down old buildings. Even if they redo the insides at least leave the structures. Down in Florida early settlers destroyed and used up all the Dade County pine. They didn’t replant the trees . It was made with a type of indestructible hurricane proof wood. Totally hurricane proof trees. Homes and buildings made from dade county pine still exist perfectly undamaged today. They survived storm after storm while concrete and new structures are demolished from storms. That’s why the first school house and trading post inFt Lauderdale are still standing. Perfectly crafted and undamaged. I took my students on field trips every year to give them a sense of the past, and also an understanding of how by saving what is natural to the environment is essential. I think that’s why parts of Europe are so beautiful. I find those tall glass skyscrapers unpleasing not only to the eye, but unsafe. I don’t mind brick. I like the look of bricks. I had old Chicago bricks in a fireplace I had here in Florida in the 80’s and 90’s. I like the old with a touch of modern. But I’m not comfortable in an all modern home. Yes, I love technology. But I like the warmth and coziness of brick and wood too. When I moved to Florida it was fun to see the Deco details on Miami Beach. Each century and each decade has interesting architecture.

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  3. I’ve actually found myself “collecting” things like air conditioners in windows, bird feeders in trees, even those kitschy home decor signs hanging all over homes… I was walking in the forest and found a gnome village a few days ago and painted rocks are a big thing as well- left out purposefully for people to find.

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    1. That all sounds wonderful, and very fun things to collect!! I would love to come across painted rocks…I’ve heard of towns that do that and I think it’s such a cool idea

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      1. It was huge here a few years ago! They are still doing it on the hiking trails by my daughters community. The grands would find them all the time and I think still have a bucket full in their garage somewhere!

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      2. I’ve come across three such rocks, one on a nature trail, one at an ATM and one in a parking lot of a Wegmans Grocery Store. You should visit the Lehigh Valley.

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  4. We have a VRBO and often items go missing. Every time we are in town I like the dollar store and second hand stores to see what I can find. Not really a collection, but I enjoy the hunt for bargains. Last trip was a hand blown? salad bowl for $2.99!

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  5. I love noticing the detail of old houses, the architecture, and in Monterey and Carmel every house has a name! I also love to watch people and capture snippets of their conversations. I know, it unethical, but I can’t help “noticing.” Hugs, C

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    1. Named houses!! Awesome! And I am a very big eavesdropper. But to be fair…they’re in a public space. The onus is on them to monitor what they say. They don’t own the sound waves, just the sound

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