The value of a view

Recently I had the opportunity to attend a broker’s open house tour, featuring Upper East Side penthouses with terraces. All the apartments included gorgeous interiors, large functional kitchens, and comfortable bedrooms – and yet I found myself constantly drawn to the windows with a view of Central Park. Even walking into another room adjacent to one I had just walked through enjoying the view, I would be unable to resist walking over to the windows to gaze once again at the spectacular scenery. For me, the highlight of each apartment tour was a trip outside to walk along a spacious terrace – even though on that particular day, the temperature was unseasonably cold. Many people think of a park view or terrace as a status symbol, and yet I was drawn to each simply as an observer, with no one there to be impressed (or not). As I finished up a few enjoyable hours at several wonderful buildings, I found myself wondering: what is the value of a view?

Since the apartments I was touring all had Central Park views, with trees, rolling hills, and a large body of water (the reservoir), my mind turned to the work of Diane Ackerman (author of The Natural History of the Senses, among many other works).  I heard her speak many years ago, and was struck by her observation that, as the human animal moves into increasingly artificial environments, we crave adding nature back into our habitats. This could be through cultivating plants in our tiny apartments, keeping companion animals, or spending a premium to see nature unfurl through our windows (or on our terrace). Human-made objects tend to be linear and three dimensional; natural objects tend to be more serpentine and of fractional (fractal) dimensions. The world we have created is fairly static and unchanging, while nature is constantly chaotic and fluctuating. Ackerman proposes that people need nature; we evolved as a part of the natural world and our industrial, mechanical world is too recent a development to completely remove this primal need.

So, is paying a higher price for an apartment with a view worth it? Of course, this is a personal decision for everyone looking to buy a home. For me, I can say that it does have value, and the only way you can be sure if it is worth it to you is to include a few options with views and see how you respond.

While these concepts apply to view of nature (whether Central Park, some other park, or a river), in another post I will discuss the different value of a city view. In my next blog post I will be back with another dérive (an unplanned walk around Manhattan).

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