A view from above

Cityness is what comes to mind when you stand back and let the essence of cities seep over you. Picture yourself arriving at a big city for the first time from the air. What thoughts and impressions come to mind?

On the whole, modern cities take on a Lego-like regularity when viewed from high altitude. Box-like buildings hug straight lines and curves while the general hardness of brick, cement and tarmac is occasionally punctuated by the dark green of trees or the lighter green of grass. Sometimes the sun is caught in the reflection of a pond or lake and often a river will run a course. Some larger structures - sports stadia, power stations, communications towers - stand out as distinctive and purposeful.

As you decrease height, activity becomes more discernible. Vehicles move up and down tarmac arteries, the main thoroughfares more clogged up than residential streets. Many of the vehicles are moving to and from the airport you are about to land in. Lower still and you can start to make out people, but watching their busying about is akin to watching an ants' nest - fascination, perhaps, but little comprehension of the activity. Nevertheless, you get the impression of purpose as they appear from and disappear into vehicles and buildings. If you arrive at night, you will note the not small endeavour of defeating darkness - billions of watts called forth to keep the urban environment physically illuminated. Cities rely overwhelmingly on energy.

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