All great cities in the world cling to the banks of a river, the aorta at their heart, dissecting their anatomy and shaping their identity. It is right to think of the river first, as without the ancient great rivers; the Danube, the Nile, the Ganges, the Mississippi, the Thames, perhaps none of the respective settlements would have ever come to flourish.
What drew the nomads in? The heady cocktail of cosmos and chaos? The vying of the old and new? The unabashed exultation of human endeavour? Layers of architecture and culture continue to slide over one another and reform new composites, like the ancient seams of rock baking in the earth’s crust beneath.
Chance. The force that draws many in. The confluence of disparate people, the hope of new experiences, new ideas, good and bad – the chance to find it all within the old walls. If the people are the lifeblood in the city’s veins, then the capital is the push pin holding this specimen steadfast. The anchor of our centrifuge, the point from which all chances and ideas spin outwards. We all seek a centre.
London has always been in flux, reshaped time and again by war, economics, disease, disaster. It reflects the instability of its inhabitants. People come and go. Money comes and goes. The currents of human endeavour remain – the art, the food, the buildings, the movement, the life. It never fails to stir a reaction. Better to feel something and be human, than feel nothing and be lost.
But, like a centrifuge, what draws you in also pushes you away. The feeling of being overwhelmed by all the humanity, by all its hopes and delusions.
Does it make you consider your own actions? Do you cling to a river? What populates the city of your mind? Take your experiences, the old, the new, the unwanted and unrealised; the city has room for them all. Ask yourself one last question; what shape will the city take when I next step through that door?