Urban Mirror Squint

Andrew MacNair


The window looks west out onto the sidewalk along the avenue. The avenue runs north to south. The sidewalk is on the west side of the avenue. The window is in a small café on street level. The view from inside out looks on the diagonal northwest to the corner of the café. On the north wall in the corner is a large mirror covering most of the wall top to bottom and left to right. The mirror faces south. The window faces west.

While looking both out and into this corner where wall mirror meets windows at a right angle, one sees several views at the same time. At first it seems to be an oh-well – we’ve seen this many times before as a good way to open up a small space with a mirror wall. But on longer looking, we see something strange, another something we New Yorkers take for granted – we see two way traffic on the street and two way pedestrians walking on the sidewalk. But the direction of the cars and buses on the street and the direction of the people waking is strange and confounding. The more we look the more confusing it becomes. What is where on the street and who is where on the sidewalk – and when?

For the moment, I want to describe what happens visually looking from the inside out towards the corner where mirror meets the glass. First, to document what I see; and second, to try to figure it out. Sitting and watching these are the numerous scenarios that occur. I see out the window a man walking from the south to the north on the sidewalk, I see him at the same time walking from the north to the south in the mirror – same man walking in two opposite directions at the same time. Then as he moves closer to himself walking in opposite directions on the same sidewalk he suddenly disappears. The two images of the same man in two different directions meet and cancel each other – poof, gone.

Next, we see a woman out the window walking south along the sidewalk. At the same time, we see the same woman from her back walking north in the mirror. As she walks further south out the window, she is also walking further north in the mirror. She too disappears but not at the point of total merge but at some point of distance out of the frame of vision defined by the limits, the edge of the window for the view of her moving south and then by the physical limit of the wall mirror being able to see only so far before loosing sight of her. This woman disappears by two sudden cut frame cut-offs but not at the same time. As the woman disappears walking south out the window to the left of the café window frame, I can still see her back walking north in the mirror on the wall. She appears as two figures, then one of her figures disappear (the first, real one), the other figure (second, not real, reflective) is still seen walking north, and then suddenly she is gone too – out of sight two times, twice.

Now, we see a boy in the mirror walking south, but we do not see him out the window. As we walks further south – and closer to the front of the café window, he suddenly appears out the window walking north. We see the boy both walking south in the mirror and walking north outside, he disappears in the same instance as the man walking both ways towards himself – front to front. The boy disappears when the mirror image meets the out the window image. This is a variation on the dual movement of the man.

Then, we see a girl walking south in the mirror. Just watching her in a single view image without watching her, or looking for her to come into the frame of the café window, she suddenly disappears in the mirror movement. I turn to find her in the window, She is totally gone. I never saw her enter outside the window frame at all. She must have turned east, to go inside the shop next door, before the frame of the café window. But this is disconcerting when trying to figure out the principles of this simple reflective system. She has, however, broken the system, by turning right (east) and going inside. This throws off the flow of what we see.

So too, we see a couple coming up the street walking north while looking in the diagonal view of the mirror where they look like they are walking down the street (south). By now we see and think in double, simultaneously, oh, yes they are the same couple, yes they are the same couple but walking in two different, opposite directions at the same pace and same time and same line. But then, again, they are gone. Suddenly they are standing behind me in the café. The door of the café is to the left of the window frame. The door is behind me. So I do not see the door when looking and watching on this keen diagonal. The café door makes an east to west path perpendicular to the sidewalk and window, but parallel to the mirror. It is present but not visible from this view point. Yet this couple tips the system to include not only a paradox of appearance disappearing re-appearing but also to sign inside now as part of outside space and time – instead of inside just being me and my eye watching outside.

In reverse, while watching back on the keen diagonal, the couple suddenly reappears from the wall seen in the mirror back onto the sidewalk where they just walk straight out (west) and across the street in the pause (red light) of the north bound traffic of cars, buses, trucks, and bikes. I only see them in the mirror, but their walking out (west) seems to be the same direction as their actual walking out of the café behind me. But then they too disappear in their walking away an across the street beyond the left limit and edge of the mirror wall. However – I see a blue bus now in the mirror going south (downtown.) I do not see it out the window in the street beyond the sidewalk. But then in a bit, I do see the blue bus out the window running north (uptown) too. It is the same bus going in opposite directions but head on. The two views run into each other, but the buses do not collide. The bus stops. But there was no collision, these are just views – one real, one not. The stopped blue bus out the window in the street going north (uptown) is now merged into the stopped blue bus in the mirror going south (downtown) as one double long bus stopped with two backs end-to-end and no front.

And so, I get up and leave wondering which image I am in – or part of now – then leaving the café door going west, out of the wall, turning right on the sidewalk heading north (uptown), entering the café window frame, walking north (uptown), and possibly being seen walking south (downtown) at the same time in the opposite direction only to disappear in two sudden erasures north and south, uptown and then downtown in full frontal merge collision into invisible nothingness?



This is a little independent tabloid magazine looking into three expanding fields of Architecture, Not Architecture, and Not Not Architecture between ancient and future time and space.
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