Urban landscapes are a uniform sight dotted with highrises and skyscrapers. The web documentary ‘Out My Window’ explores the impact of modern cities on our identity and the ways and means of building a sense of community when you reside in one of these towers.
As new buildings go up and old buildings come down, so too does our collective psyche change and evolve. Describing urban transformation with reference to 1970s Prague, Norwegian architect Christian Norberg-Schulz theorised that ”From the new residential neighborhoods people go to old Prague to get a confirmation of their identity. Without the old centre, Prague would today be sterile and the inhabitants would be reduced to alienated ghosts.” In short, our collective identity as well as our individual identity is intrinsically linked to our surroundings, and, as the argument goes, cities are losing their charm and we are losing our collective and individual sense of self as urban landscapes modernise.
Web documentary ‘Out My Window‘, directed by Katerina Cizek, investigates this notion by analysing how highrise residents attribute meaning to their environment and build a sense of community when identical domiciles are piled on top of one another. The highly interactive project takes users into people’s apartments across 13 cities worldwide including Amsterdam, Prague, Istanbul, Bangalore, Phnomh Penh, Beirut and Johannesburg using photography, 360 degree videos and interviews with inhabitants to provide a well-rounded view of urban life across the world.
In Havana, Cuba, the documentary explores the barrio of Alamar, home to the largest public-housing project in the world and looks at how poor construction of the buildings affects those living within. In Johannesburg, South Africa, users learn about the incidence of so-called ‘hijacked buildings’, where ownership of a residential building is hijacked by people who remove the owners (the documentary states that sometimes the owners are killed), inform tenants they are the new owners, distribute new bank account details that tenants must use to pay rent and collect the monthly payments. In Prague, Czech Republic, we meet a family with young children who adapted their apartment to their needs and fill every nook and cranny with art, colour and memories.
‘Out My Window’ is just one part of the ongoing Highrise project which is run by the National Film Board of Canada and uses mixed media to try and reinvent the concept of urban dwelling in the 21st century.
Check out the trailer below or head to the ‘Out My Window‘ website for more.