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Windows of Bolin Aiyue

A six-steps pattern of observation, 2021

When confined at home for long periods of time as it happened during the Covid-19 crisis, windows become one’s only natural contact with the external world. They can be studied from different orientations, from inside and outside, and it is through a pattern of six steps that one may complete a cycle of observation.

The residence and the building

Who hasn’t been impressed by modern Chinese architecture upon arriving in Beijing, marked by its utilitarian, Lego block-style structures with massive forms and minimal decorative elements? Bolin Aiyue, also known as the Berlin Philharmonic, is one of these residences built in 2008 and situated at the eastern outskirts of Beijing, comprising thirty-eight buildings from six to twenty floors, with thousands of residents of diverse social classes. From October 2017 to June 2021, I lived in the fourteenth floor of one of these buildings, where its windows were at the core of this visual research project, as they connected the inside and the outside world in ways that I attempted to study.

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Research question: How to study my own windows and those of my residence from different inside-outside orientations?

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First and last photograph of the view from my northern windows: October 2nd, 2017, and June 22nd, 2021

The philosopher and urban theorist Henri Lefevre saw the window as a transactional object with ‘two senses, two orientations: from inside to outside, and from outside to inside’ (1991). From there, my proposal entailed to explore and classify these orientations across six chapters, where the relation between observer and observed—be it the windows themselves or what is seen from them—is the constant that gave a common thread to the project’s reflection and experimentation stages. In these six chapters, artists references were commented and visual experiments were conducted, starting with the most mobile and common of observations, when walking within the residence looking at others’ windows from outside. Subsequent chapters were rather settled in one space, my own apartment and its surroundings, which reduced the range of the study, unless one considers the distant view from my windows. Finally, the last chapter was the most complex as it involved four of my neighbours and their respective windows. What initially started as a project alone, within my apartment, expanded by being shared with others.

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