Create A Window City

Cities are made up of lots of different layers and that is what makes a city a place of so many possibilities. The world has been put on standstill as a result of Covid-19 and the recent protests around the world seeking racial justice has led people to think more about how we can make better cities for all.

So we ask you what different layers of a city makes a great city? 

Is it the buildings, the people, the green spaces, the types of transport or something else?

We will guide you to create the layers of your own city and you will use your window to describe your vision for your own city for passers outside to see!  In Creating A Window City, let your imagination run wild!

Step by step

Step 1: Create the First Layer of your City

Think of when you look outside of your window and see things in the background sometimes it’s buildings, sometimes green spaces, sometimes are moving objects. We are going to split these up into different layers starting with an urban cityscape. We have created templates for the background to help with this (downloadable PDF).

  1. To start, you will need to find a large cardboard box that is about the same width as your window (A4 size also works). You need to cut it into 2 large sheets.
  2. We will be making a cityscape made out of rectangles, squares and triangles for roofs and will be filling the top half of the cardboard sheet only
  3. You will need scrap cardboard, old magazines and paper you have collected. Cut out rectangles and triangles for the buildings and roofs. Start sticking these down with glue. Feel free to also draw buildings and roofs onto the background using crayons/pens.
  4. Try and mix different textures and colours of the scrap cardboard and paper. This does not need to be neat – keep layering rectangles of different sizes over one another so there is a mixture of buildings.
  5.  Use coloured paper or magazines clippings to cut out triangles and glue them onto some of the buildings to make roofs. Finally cut out little squares and stick them onto some of the towers you have made to create windows. 
  6. Once you have filled the cardboard length with buildings it’s time to start decorating the buildings, Get a black felt tip pen or marker and start drawing windows on each of the buildings and lining the buildings. Draw different patterns on the roofs to make them stand out.You can print off a building template to help you which you can colour in and stick on the cardboard. 
  7. The first layer is done! Now it’s time to cut out the background of the buildings. Use scissors to cut away the cardboard not covered by buildings. You can use a safety knife and cutting mat to make this quicker but you will need an adult to help you do this.

This is how your first layer should look:

Step 2: Create the Second Layer of your City

All cities are brought to life when they have nice green spaces for people to enjoy. Our second layer focuses on creating green spaces and landscapes.

  1. We will be adding a green landscape with trees, hills and mountains using egg boxes, cardboard, magazine cutouts and coloured paper and crayons.
  2. You will need another large piece of cardboard similar size to the first layer. Use a pencil to draw out hills and trees start colouring some of the hills and trees with your crayons 
  3. Next start cutting out the hill and mountain shapes using the magazine cutouts and cardboard and paper. Stick these down with glue. 
  4. You can create height by cutting small cardboard squares and layering them to the back of one of the hill shoes and sticking this down 
  5. Once you have filled the cardboard length with green landscapes it’s time to start adding detail again. Get a black felt tip pen or marker and start lining the hills and adding patterns and dashed lines.

This is how your finished second layer should look:

Step 3: Create the Third and final Layer of your City

Our third and final layer is another set of buildings. We will be following the same instructions from step one to produce this.

  1. Paste your rectangle, square and triangles shaped to make buildings 
  2. Time to draw detail of windows and doors 
  3. Time to cut out the blank spaces without the buildings 
  4. One cutout your final layer is complete.

Step 4: Bringing Your City Together

Now it’s time to join up the layers of your city. The best bit! 

We hope you have now thought more about your own city or town where you live and what different layers it is made up of.

  1. We will be glueing 10cm long layers of cardboard together to create a 3d raised effect between each layer. We have already practiced this a little bit with the landscape layer when we raised some of the hills. 
  2. Cut out 8 (10cmx1cm) strips of cardboard and glue them together – you will need to make about 6 of these in total for all the layers (2 per layer) 
  3. Glue Layer 2 on top of the Layer 1 making sure to glue on the 3d raisers you have made. 
  4. Repeat this step for gluing on Layer 3 on top of Layer 2. This last step brings the whole city together.

Your city should be looking very 3D now:

Step 5: My City Is…

The last step is to bring the vision of your city alive by telling us what your future vision of your ideal city is. 

We have created some small banners for our city using match sticks and coloured paper to describe our ideal city. 

Think about what things you like and don’t like about your city and how it can be improved.

  1. Cut Out some rectangles and write on what things make a good city 
  2. Use match sticks or thin strips of card to make banners to attach the 3d city
  3. Place the banners on the city and attach using masking tape/sellotape. 
  4. Well done, your city is now complete and ready to be shown to the outside world!

Step 6: Time to Activate Your Window

You can make some 3d trees using egg carton and toilet roll tubes to make the city more scenic ash show in the picture above (watch the video to find out how)

Now it’s time to put your city on your window for people outside to see. Use the wax crayons to write: 


and fill in the blank with your vision and decorate your window  by adding a sun and clouds. (Remember: You have to write backwards for people to read it outside) If you make a mistake the wax crayons can wipe off with a sponge and water. 

Finally, take a picture of Your City on your window inside and outside and upload it to share with us.



Our vision for our city is one that has Justice in mind, a city of Diversity and a ‘City For All’. We have made colourful and vibrant buildings with different uses and characteristics to demonstrate what a city designed by diverse people can look like. At the heart of this city is Community Spirit when communities and people come together, great things can happen. Lastly, we think that Good, Affordable Housing, Transport and Inclusive Green Spaces are just a few of the elements that are important for achieving a ‘Just City’.

Further ideas:

  • You can have a go making another small city to sit on top of the big city like we have  
  • You can keep changing the scene every day by wiping off the wax crayon and drawing another scene.
  • You can also add another layer of people to the city or draw them on your window 
  • You can add trains, rockets, flying cars to your different layers the possibilities are endless. Think about how cities can be sustainable in the future and draw this.  

Activity created by Activate The City!

Activate The City! is a placemaking agency and part social enterprise facilitating youth-led community development through activating vacant and underused spaces in cities.

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