Sunday, 15 November 2015

View from the top: A Tale of 3 cities

Height – for some it is intimidating, for some it is exciting. Mankind has always been fascinated by height- to reach to the top, to climb mountains, to fly like a bird, to make tall structures and to see the world from top.

For those, the majority, who cannot jump with a parachute on, climbing up to a tall structure is the best and safest way to have a sweeping view of a city. Let’s talk about 3 epic cities and 3 such equally great man-made structures that bring alive a bird’s eye view as well as provide a peek into their history. Let’s fly to London, Paris and Dubai and talk about the structures and listen to the tales about the views underneath.

The story is about human civilisation and its endeavour to excel. It dates back to 15th century when a revolution had started in Europe. A movement called the Renaissance that changed the way we look at arts and culture. The resurgence, which started in Italia and later widened to France and rest of northern Europe witnessed cultural and socio-political elevation contributed by multifaceted talents such as Michelangelo and Leonardo da Vinci. They were simultaneously architects, poets, sculptors, engineers, scientists, astronomers, inventors and had been highly influential in that era. That is the era when people started to become more sensitive to aesthetics.
View from the top: A Tale of 3 cities
Mona Lisa - a Renaissance period art by Leonardo da Vinci - is still popular among the visitors of Louvre museum, Paris
200 years hence, another revolution stormed through another part of Europe and this time it meant serious business. In a bid to transform the society from agrarian to industrial, this movement invented machines and improved methods of production. Started in Britain, industrial revolution transformed manufacturing, transportation and the world of business. The British spread its wings all over the world in search of raw materials for the industry, leading to colonisation.
An artist's depiction of Industrial Revolution
While the England was at its pinnacle of success as the most industrial, richest, innovative and most powerful nation in the world, another revolution swept through France – the French revolution. This late eighteenth century revolution not only changed the political landscape of France but also changed the world’s view on political practices. By uprooting the age old feudal system, the citizen of France demonstrated the people’s power – an inspiration for democracies and republics which gained popularity in the twentieth century.

View from the top: A Tale of 3 cities
Palace of Versailles -a living witness and focal point of French Revolution - is now a tourist point of attraction
As the century turned, the coveted title of the most industrialised nation moved to the United States. The discovery of Oil - the black gold, fuelled the growth of the world economy primarily shifting the focus to the America. With improved methods of production and use, the petroleum became the world’s driving force of growth. Later in the twentieth century, the deserted landscape of the Middle-East started to gain a complete makeover with bustling cities producing the world’s most valuable commodity in terms of industrial use.

With this historical backdrop, let us now move to the views one by one

London | The London Eye | World’s tallest observation wheel

When this rotating observation wheel with 32 capsules was built in the south bank of the river Thames, the architects never expected it to become one of world’s most visited attractions. For, it was neither considered as an architectural wonder nor a technological marvel. However this rotating wheel, which can carry approximately 800 people at a time and offers views as far as 40 kilometres, when opened for visitors in the wake of the new millennium, caught the fancy of the tourists from all over the world.
View from the top: A Tale of 3 cities
River Thames and city of London: View from London Eye
Leisurely standing at a capsule of the wheel, which moves at an unnoticed speed of 26 cm per second, it’s a pleasure to see the city of London as it slowly unfolds. The river Thames flows just below at a speed faster than the wheel and is a live witness to the thousands of years of English civilisation, the industrial revolution, the great plague, the great fire, numerous public executions, world wars and so many other events that has shaped the modern England. St Paul’s cathedral with its Renaissance inspired architecture, the palace of Westminster- the parliament house which was rebuilt after the great fire and Big Ben clock tower will not go unnoticed from the view during the 30 minutes of journey. The 360 degree view from the wheel also offers a glimpse to the historic royal palaces –the tower of London, Hampton court and Windsor castle.
View from the top: A Tale of 3 cities
150 year old Clock tower or "Big Ben" still stands firm near the Millennium Wheel 
Paris | The Eiffel Tower |The most visited world wonder

A Metal beauty at the heart of renaissance inspired, fashion sensitive Paris. Named after its designer Alexandre Gustave Eiffel, who is also credited with the design of another famous landmark, the statue of liberty, this is undoubtedly a symbol of romanticism and the icon of France. Built in the year 1889 to commemorate centenary to French Revolution, Eiffel tower with a height of around 1000 feet was the tallest structure in the world till the year 1930.
View from the top: A Tale of 3 cities
View of River Seine and city of Paris from the Eiffel  tower
However, this metal structure hasn’t had a smooth journey over time. The advocates of French arts and culture of that time perceived it as an unsightly creation totally out of sync with French taste and raised appeal to demolish it. In fact it was almost dismantled into scrap but then they recognised the utility of the tower to transmit radio and telegraph signals. During World War I, Eiffel tower was used to intercept the radio communications of the enemies. During World War II, Hitler ordered destruction of the tower, but luckily that could not be accomplished. The tower is still standing tall with all its glory as the most stylish monument and welcoming around 7 million visitors per year.
View from the top: A Tale of 3 cities
River Seine
Time has changed, so has the taste and likes of Parisians and rest of the world. The once neglected structure is now the most prized possession of the city of Paris. What has not changed is the magnificent antiquity of French art and culture. The river Seine still flows that same way it used to in the time of French Revolution. The arc de Triomphe still boldly displays the valiance of Napoleon Bonaparte, the renaissance is still mirrored in the collection of arts of Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo in the Louvre museum; Notre Dame cathedral, Les Invalides and all other Parisian architectures still living like a legend under the unmistaken shadow of the Eiffel tower.
View from the top: A Tale of 3 cities
Eiffel tower as seen from Seine
Dubai | Burj Khalifa | Height of height

Untouched by the happenings of the rest of the world, it used to be a sleepy fishing village surrounded by deserted landscape until oil was discovered in Abu Dhabi in the late twentieth century. Since then, it has been a journey of growth and progress for UAE with Dubai emerging as a commercial hub and a major port in the Middle East. It’s also been a paradise for present day designers who have created unprecedented mega structures in the heart of this desert.
View from the top: A Tale of 3 cities
View from the top: A Tale of 3 cities
Burj Khalifa, world’s tallest man-made structure with a height of 830 meters (2.7 times that of Eiffel tower), stands as a landmark at the heart of Dubai. A view from the observation deck of the tower itself tells a story of Dubai’s recent progress - on one side one can see a deserted landscape and on the other side a world class city complete with skyscrapers, busy roads and moving vehicles. The gulf of Persia can also be seen from the tower, where they have famously built the Palm Jumeira and the world island – two unique man-made islands in the shape of a palm tree and the world’s continents respectively.
View from the top: A Tale of 3 cities
Inside Dubai Mall
World’s second largest aquarium housed in the same complex and the world’s largest musical fountain just outside the tower, complement the pride of Burj Khalifa. Dubai is undoubtedly one of the most happening places in the Middle East, the commercial hub and most visited tourist place in the region.

As the time changes, the power and wealth also shifts from region to region. History tells us about how dynasties have been created and destroyed. The rich and famous does not remain so permanently. New wealth is created and new story of growth is written from time to time. And we must realize that the past is the only thing that does not change with time. A view from the top just helps us to realize this truth profoundly.

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