From the 27th floor I watch the towers towards Leighton and on the hill above Tai Hang. From this height the city seems organic, a creature all it’s own. Like a good view in any metropolis, zooming out gives a sense of the spectacle possible in big cities, the beauty of the Kowloon skyline and sunsets over the Peak. More often though a good view gives a sense of our place in something bigger, and the patterns common in all our lives. As the light fades the towers in front of me pulse with a slow rhythm. Room lights wink on as their inhabitants come home from work, blink out as those same people move rooms. From this height, from this distance, none of the people are visible, just the shape, the gradual twinkle of a city big enough to have so many apartments in a single view. I imagine bedroom lights turned on, work clothes shed, bedroom lights turned off. Kitchens that fill with cooking, balconies where laundry is reclaimed from the sun’s drying rays. I imagine children home from school, helpers wrapping up their shifts. In some buildings the lights have an automated feel, the elevator lighting each floor as it’s doors set off motion detectors, or a hallway that lights to greet those returning home, switching off to energy once they’ve closed their door.
Watching the city twinkle, my own Hue lights on dim purples and oranges, the Nanoleaf triangles pulsing light blues and pinks, I am at peace. I’ve always dreamed of living with a view like this, of a city so big as to feel organic, a place we could disappear into, inhabitants of one box out of so many. It’s a feeling I love, one of the reasons I adore city pixel animations, the slow pulse of human life with the humans invisible at scale. Watching the container ships pass in the harbor, the whole harbor itself, is similar. So many people living on so many boats, near invisible not just globally but from any view that can take in the boats in number.
Like similar views of Central Park, of Manhattan from Brooklyn, distance brings beauty to the chaos of navigating crowded streets, to the humidity of Hong Kong’s crowded shopping districts or parks on weekends. Finding beauty from an air-conditioned distance is sheer luck. For the first four years here my view was much closer, much more personal, only a few floors up above a busy 7 Eleven. I loved the city then too.
The picturesque pulse, though, exists in a different realm, not just part of my love of density. As PJ Harvey sings, from my memories a lifetime ago in Queens:
“On a rooftop in Brooklyn
At one in the morning
Watching the lights flash
Quoted lyrics from PJ Harvey’s ‘You Said Something’, from the 2000 album Stories from the City, Stories from the Sea