City Readers and City Riders

Walking in Liverpool street, London, I am jostled by a woman in hurry, I totter and scream “Hey !”, hoping to give her a little sense of guilt, but she doesn’t stop nor turns her head back. My shoulder hurts and I feel my dignity offended.

I look in front of me  again, but three people that are chattering loud are walking fast in my direction , I feel alone, and I have to move.

A girl passes next to me. She catches a glimpse of the street and goes back to her mobile phone screen. She is also smoking.

I jump on the stairs of a concrete building. There is a guard in a yellow jacket, who looks at me in disapproval as I cannot be there, but I stop and stare at the linear stream that keeps flowing trough the city.


As walkers we are subjected to various forms of interaction: advertisements, cars, different lightings, food smells, sound pollution and the people we try to surpass which all together distract us from the bigger picture of the city. We are individual that have been placed in a cage of open tunnels and we run them fast because tired of being always so far away from our (temporary) destination. We experience thrill, fear, we hurt, falling and rising our bodies into a constant movement.

In the post-modern city it is possible for everyone to experience the Balloon view, a state of height that opens up the panorama, often reaching the size of grand-angle lens. According to Michel de Certau , at a certain height the city becomes a body of text and who sees is the reader. The individual in air has no participation in the life down below, except with the companies with which he shares the condition of being “a view point and nothing more”(1984: 92).



The View on Elephant & Castle Station, descending the floors of the LCC Building



Such movements across  the city assume,for the reader above, the form of an Homeric poem. The Odyssey and Iliad traditionally attributed to Homers resulted as a fragmentary transcription of different myths which were written and performed by many singing  ‘ῥαψῳδός’ (rapsodos)  in public. The original authors are unknown but their poems have been collected and passed into history.

A sense of exclusion occurs when there is a temporal and spatial distance to the things we see. Such a feeling was expressed by the renaissance paintings on places’ ceilings, that illustrated some  scenes of life in heaven.


Andrea Mantegna


Today the same sensation has moved from a religious sphere becoming visible all around  business centres with the presence of  glassy skyscrapers.


LCC building from down-below


These buildings have become symbols of a higher class and its inaccessibility, because of their centrality and visibility to the walkers of the city. The high and sharp design of modern skyscrapers ,convey a sense of instability, when looking from down below, where the heavy mass of the towers overcomes and overshadows the walkers. Glass and steel are  the main sources for modern and luxurious architecture  which in this sense is creating narcissistic complexes where height is only reflecting heights.

Is a form of individualist architecture and express the elitist  class power which is able to observe from above being independent from the ‘blind’ below. On the other hand, a concentration of glassy skyscrapers, with their inevitable dead-end reflection, represents the condition of infinite vitality proper of the city life, where the movement is never ending  and allows the swarm to reach the limits of the sky and the ground.



Certeau, M. and Rendall, S. (1984). The practice of everyday life. Berkeley: University of California Press.

Mantegna: Anon, (2016). [online] Available at: [Accessed 9 Mar. 2016].

Narcissus: Anon, (2016). [online] Available at: [Accessed 9 Mar. 2016].

The Shard: Anon, (2016). [online] Available at: [Accessed 9 Mar. 2016].

London underground Stairs: Anon, (2016). [online] Available at: [Accessed 9 Mar. 2016].