Business Traveller

Can you guess the city by looking out of your hotel window?

Travis Levius, CNNUpdated 1st February 2017
(CNN) — Could you tell the difference between Bangkok and Sao Paulo by looking out of a hotel room window?
It's not as easy as you think, says Swiss photographer Roger Eberhard, who's visited hotel rooms in 32 countries and six continents for a project exploring standardization in our major cities.
Roger Eberhard
Daniel Disipio
In his aptly titled book "Standard," Eberhard photographs Hilton hotel's entry-level double rooms at the same angle in several global cities -- from Sydney and Tokyo to Addis Ababa and Panama City -- alongside snapshots of the world outside the hotel window.
His original mission for the art project shifted during his travels, when he noticed the Hilton rooms weren't the only thing that felt "standard."
 "I started the project thinking that [hotel] rooms look the same everywhere you go, and only by looking out the window are you able to tell where you are in the world... and it was quite the opposite."

Raising questions

Sao Paulo 1
Are we in Shanghai, Buenos Aires or Sao Paulo?
Courtesy Roger Eberhard
Eberhard would open the window curtains in Shanghai and see clusters of skyscrapers in similar angles as those he's seen in Hilton room views of Sao Paulo, Tokyo and Bangkok.
"There were quite a few things about the rooms that looked localized -- sometimes it was the wallpaper or curtains that gave references to the continent or culture -- and on the other hand, the more places I visited, the harder it got by looking out each window to tell where I was."
To emphasize this point-of-view in "Standard," Eberhard purposefully withheld city names of the respective room-and-view pairs until the end of the book.
"It's raising a question, talking about standardization both in the way we live and in regards to cities," Eberhard says.
"It's not about inciting change, but rather an observation."  
He acknowledges that some of the cities in his book deviate from the "standard" look and stand out among the others.

'Touristy view'

Sao Paulo 2
Eberhard says standard hotel rooms can offer more clues to location than the view out of the window.
Courtesy Roger Eberhard
"Nairobi looked extremely authentic to me, with these colorful buses and all these people on the streets and older buildings. [The window view of] Venice has a postcard, touristy kind of view...I think it's the #1 city that people recognize in the book."
And though the room view of bustling Bangkok was among Eberhard's more monotonous images, it remains his favorite from the project.
"It was the most insane view I had... being at the center of the metropolis, it looked ginormous. So dense, so many high-rises, so much stuff is happening."
Eberhard insists that while we're living in an ever-globalizing world, the unique essence of each of our global cities remain intact.  
"Even if a city changes, it always remains authentic. It's never becomes a fake."
Think you can correctly identify each city from Eberhard's "Standard" images? Test your cityscape knowledge in the gallery above before taking a peek at the captions.
"Standard" by Roger Eberhard is published by Schiedegger & Spiess