|- Carew Tower observation deck in Cincinnati, OH.|
|- Nov. 2010 photograph from the John Hancock Observation Deck in Chicago, Illinois.|
When you depart the elevator, you walk right into a gift shop with all the tourist traps - overpriced souvenirs, a snack bar, gimmick photo booth etc. Surrounding that tourist trap though are tall panes of glass that let you gaze out across the vast landscape of one of America's most impressive cityscapes. You can look out onto Lake Michigan, stare back into Chicago's skyline and downtown, look North at the neighborhoods or look west towards the industry and setting sun. The flat landscape of Chicago makes the sunset even more impressive than the mid-day view. One floor below, there's the "Signature Room" - affording the same views with fancy dining and tourists clamoring for a table.
|- Hancock Tower Signature Room, Nov. 2011.|
|- "The Ledge" atop Chicago's Sears Tower. August 2012.|
At the top of the stairs is a tiny gift shop selling postcards and other knick knacks. You pay two dollars in cash to the attendant and then can walk straight out into the open air deck. There's no suicide fence like on the Empire State Building in New York or restaurant, gimmicks and glass lobbies like the buildings in Chicago. The small gift shop atop The Carew is like a remote outpost atop the urban landscape.
While no longer the city's tallest building, the newer Great American Tower doesn't feature any kind of observation deck, although the view there is quite incredible. The Carew still manages to tower over the city though and unlike Chicago, the nearby terrain is is varied and hilly. At the corners of the deck are four quarter powered telescopes.
On this particular day the wind was calm, the deck was empty aside from a few people coming up here and there. The city below is quiet, save from the sounds of a bus recording announcing an arrival at Government Square that gets whipped up in the wind to the top of the tower. The view, like Cincinnati's skyline is diverse. You can see into the suburban hills of Kentucky, down the Ohio River, into the corporate skyscrapers and beyond to the dense, urban neighborhoods. The view is one that showcases the big city feel of downtown Cincinnati with a postcard-ish small town vibe in the distance. The observation deck itself is peaceful, a nice escape from the regularity of life below.
An observation deck guest lines up a photograph with their cell phone looking to the west, while the sun casts a shadow on the outpost-like gift shop.
The Carew Tower casts a shadow on the Fifth Third Bank building on the left, while the city's other corporate towers take in the setting sun - the suburban landscape in the distance behind them.
In an August 2012 article from The Atlantic Cities entitled "What Your Skyline Says About Your City," the author lays out different categories of city skylines. In a category titled "Oligopolis," he defines these skylines as such:
"Found primarily in North America, the Oligopolis is marked by the clear dominance of a handful of prominent towers headquartering firms in the region’s key industries. A key feature of these cities’ downtowns is parking lots, a clear indication that CBD land isn’t exactly in high demand. Examples include Pittsburgh and Houston, where CBDs turn into ghost towns after the districts’ workforces have headed back to the ‘burbs for the evening."
The above photograph reminded me of the black & white ones I made from Chicago's John Hancock Tower in the Fall of 2010. Since Chicago would fit the author's category of a "Shock City" and Cincinnati that of an "Oligopolis," the title fits.
Patterns of two office buildings in the Cincinnati skyline as seen from the Carew Tower.
Tinted green window color and the warming of the sun on the side of this office building as seen from the Carew Tower.
Cincinnati's Over-The-Rhine neighborhood seen in the distance behind two corporate towers in the foreground.
One of the Carew Tower's telescopes with the city skyline beyond it. Photograph inspired by Reddit user "zerophaze."
For the rest of the photographs in the series, check out: 224 Views of Cincinnati.