Wondering whether “a view from the top” was just a common phrase or whether it had a particular origin, I looked it up in Google: 228 000 Web pages contain the phrase! There is a film of this title featuring Gwyneth Paltrow (with a rather bad review by “Rotten Tomatoes”), lots of pages concerning astronomy, mountaineering, and, of course, people “at the top” giving advice to others on how to be successful.
One of the success gurus, Zig Ziglar, coming closer to the end of his life, realised that despite lots of money, something was missing. He concluded that you have to “move from success into significance” (www.salesstar.com/ziglar.html)
That is exactly one of the problems with photographs taken “from the top”: The view is extraordinary; if you stood there yourself you might find it breathtaking. But after a while the attraction of the unusual perspective fades away. People working on the top floors of the office towers probably don’t look at the view anymore after while.

Some of the following images may be of this type, “just beautiful but nothing more” as Esther Woerdehoff, owner of a Parisian photography gallery would say. (www.ewgalerie.com) Some images, however, use the perspective to tell a story or ask questions about human lives (apologies for this “big word”): About crowds and loneliness, about sense and herd-like movements, about hospitable and hostile spaces, etc.

Look at the images a second time after a week or so, and tell me which ones still “speak to you”. Those may have “significance” in addition to beauty (if you find them beautiful at all).

Tour EDF

The thumbnail image of Tour EDF at night (above) represents the link between the twilight images and the "view from the top". Here is another view of the EDF tower from the same viewpoint, but earlier in the evening. You can see how the wind drove rain up the stairs of the EDF entrance. The "ant trail" of people is approximately the same at both points in time.

(Click on the images to enlarge)

Grande Arche - top of the lift

Waiting for the lift after a seminar at the top of la Grande Arche. Here we are looking down from the top of the lift to the "cloud" floating inside the Grande Arche. No human beings are to be seen, neither "through the cloud" nor through the windows.

A view from the top of la Grande Arche:

Panorama from the top of Grande Arche

I wonder how many people know about the church of La Défense (at the left). It is difficult to recognise the cross in the glass wall, depending on the light and your angle of view.
I have never seen this church very busy. I have never seen this church very busy. There is a stream of people walking along the main axis of La Défense, hardly anyone is heading in the direction of the church.

Les 4 Temps from the top of Grande Arche

Also from the top of la Grande Arche
It is obvious here that some architects thought about the view from above: The patterns on the ground, the timid heart shaped plant installations half way up the shopping centre "Les 4 Temps" are points in case.
But the roofs tops of most buildings have not been conceived for looks from above: You cannot detect any design effort there. Probably most buildings were the highest in their neighbourhood when they were built.

The next two images are taken from the 35th floor of Coeur Défense. Many thanks to the legal director of the big consulting company who welcomed me to their offices.
The left image shows quite clearly how the patterns on the ground have been designed for a view from above. You never see them quite as clearly while walking below.
The right one shows two business men in typical occupations: One pulling an “on board” suitcase on wheels, one walking around while talking on the phone.

Calder from the top CCF from the top

(Click on the images to enlarge)

“Merry go round”?

Miro - Carrousel Despite the “Personnage” sculpture by Miro, the setting does not appear particularly “merry”, nor terribly inviting for children. But the carrousel has been there for quite a while now and has certainly found its young customers. It matches the other circles and half circles on the ground.

Les 4 Temps en travaux-Miro-Carroussel The second image is much more scary: It is like lifting your sights a bit and realising the horrors that go on around you. In fact it is just the construction work to renovate the shopping centre Les 4 Temps – but it looks pretty destructive.

(Click on the images to enlarge)

Multitude and loneliness


While the people in the first image may be complete strangers to each other, they appear like a “normal” small crowd.

Opus12-lonely walker

Changing the perspective ever so slightly, the people in front of OPUS12 are transformed into “little green men” in the reflection of the building, and the only “real” person between the towers appears as lonely as “the last man on earth”.

(Click on the images to enlarge)

"Full Stop"
This is “la Coupole” that gives its name the surrounding square. It offers a glance into the world below the surface, or blocks your view by simply reflecting the sky or the surrounding buildings (Tour Areva and Tout Total).

Full Stop

(Click on the image to enlarge)