For me, one of the fun things to do when visiting another city is to check out the reflections of streetscapes in windows. I first discovered this obsession (yes, I think it has become a bit of an obsession) when visiting Paris where many of the storefront windows are like mini art exhibitions. You might expect this given the Paris' fashion culture, but it was more than just upscale shoes and purses, it was the juxtaposition of the people, architecture and the sense of spontaneity and surprise.
What was also interesting in Paris were the great windows weren't just on the retail streets, but also in the little shops in the residential neighbourhoods.
Why window licking?
Some might just call this "window shopping,” but in French window shopping is called it "faire du leche-vitines," which literally translates into “window licking” in English. Since Paris, I have made sure that in every city I visit, I spend some time "window licking."
While it is not measurable, I am convinced there is a direct correlation between the quality of the street windows and the quality of the street life. Unfortunately today, too many retailers and others with street windows don't appreciate the importance of great windows in making people stop, look and think.
Our recent trip to Seattle provided me with some great "window licking" experiences. Not only was downtown Seattle populated with some interesting windows, but so were the the neighbouring communities like Pioneer Square that offered some great surprises. But the best window licking was along Ballard Avenue, i.e. main street for the community of Ballard.
While Richard Florida has coined the terms Bohemian Index, Diversity Index and Gay Index as a way of measuring the health of a community, I am thinking he might want to look at the "Window Licking Index." This index would look at how often and long people stop and look in the windows along a given street, as a measure of the street's attractiveness to pedestrians.
Intuitively, I'd probably give Seattle an 8.5 out of ten on my "Window Licking" index. Have a look at these some more samples and the links to window licking in Paris, Chicago and Florence and let me know what images you like best.
PS. In reviewing my window licking images I realized that almost everyone has trees in it. One of the first things I noticed about Seattle and loved about the city's streets was the wonderful filtered light from the canopy of wonderful trees.