Cities may be built from bricks and mortar, but they’re never static or unchanging. Cities are alive; their spaces continuously recast with the flow of money and migrants, the rise and fall of industries, gentrification and decay. And, thanks to the efforts of an online start-up, we can now track those transformations with these stunning images.
20. North 19th Street, Omaha, U.S.
Urb-i is a collaborative project that crowdsources before-and-after shots of urban spaces, mostly using Google Street View. Indeed, there are 2,000 images in its growing archive, including this street in Omaha, Nebraska, which changed from a drab, empty corner into a smart new business park.
19. Carrer d’Hondures, Barcelona, Spain
Urb-i strives to “share knowledge about what good urban design practice means.” One example is this street in Barcelona, Spain. Here, the narrow and cramped sidewalks have been widened and improved with trees and benches.
18. Wilson Boulevard, Arlington, U.S.
In these shots from Arlington, Virginia, the simple addition of more paving stones and a cycle rack has completely uplifted the area. Urb-i says, “Our goal is to come up with ideas for the improvement of the city” and to “spark people’s imagination.”
17. Cross Street, Singapore
As a global project, Urb-i has collated images from across the world’s continents. Some nations, though, have only recently been visited by Google’s wandering cameras, but that didn’t mean the dramatic transformation of Cross Street in Singapore couldn’t be documented.
16. Av Santos Dumont, Belo Horizonte, Brazil
The project began as a hobby, but after founder Yuval Fogelson shared his image collection on Facebook, he received such a positive response that he committed to making an extensive database of urban change. For instance, the above transformation was snapped in his home country of Brazil, where Urb-i is based.
15. Allée Jules Guesde, Toulouse, France
Established in 2015, Urb-i and its team of urban designers collated over 1,000 images in its inaugural year. Many of the improvements highlighted by the project involve the enhancement of pedestrian areas, such as this street in Toulouse, France, which was radically transformed between 2011 and 2014.
14. O’Connell Street, Auckland, New Zealand
In Auckland, New Zealand, this narrow and non-descript street saw its road removed altogether and replaced with a pedestrian zone. The result? A swish and upbeat urban space lined with palms and benches. As a result, the parking bays are gone, and the thoroughfare looks much more relaxed.
13. Klyde Warren Park, Dallas, U.S.
Why stop with a single road? In Dallas urban planners went the whole hog and removed an entire junction of a multi-lane highway. The space was filled in and vastly improved. Before it was a bleak urban underpass; today it’s a vibrant city park.
12. Ferenciek Tere, Budapest, Hungary
Removing the tunnel on this street in Budapest, Hungary, has made all the difference. Indeed, the top image shows handsome historic architecture that’s almost off limits to pedestrians. The bottom, meanwhile, depicts a liberated sidewalk that’s been transformed into a terrace complete with café tables and parasols.
11. Beale Street, San Francisco, U.S.
Removing the overpass on Beale Street in San Francisco really opened up the area psychologically. In 2007 it was charmless and congested; a place few would want to drive, let alone walk. By 2015 the overpass was gone and the sidewalk had been spruced up – notice the crowd of pedestrians in the left of the shot.
10. Rue Pierre Timbaud, Gennevilliers, France
Some of Urb-i’s before-and-after shots reveal significant improvements to mass transit systems. On Rue Pierre Timbaud in Gennevilliers, France, for instance, the road has been replaced with tramlines and the sidewalks extended. Free from motor vehicles, the street appears much calmer and inviting.
9. Noordwal, The Hague, Netherlands
The Dutch are renowned canal builders and improvements to this street in The Hague show a sophisticated talent for urban planning. Certainly, the clumsy roundabout in the first shot has been replaced with an extended canal in the second. The new banks, too, look vibrant and welcoming, a place to enjoy a Dutch or beer or two.
8. Marcy Ave, New York, U.S.
Some of the most uplifting images in Urb-i’s database reveal the transformation of once depressed and downtrodden neighbourhoods. For example, the installation of a small community park – complete with trees, benches and a mosaic – has injected a positive vibe to this once neglected corner of New York City.
7. Main Street, Boston, U.S.
Ditto Main Street in Boston. In 2007 the street’s crumbling tarmac and extensive roadworks evidenced an urban space in decline. Four years later and the thoroughfare boasted a new lick of a paint, a pedestrianized zone and terraced seating – an altogether more desirable location.
6. East Gay Street, Columbus Ohio, U.S.
This street in Columbus, Ohio, had a rather ugly industrial feel before planners set to work. Today it’s an attractive residential avenue that doesn’t just look like a different street, but a different city. The red-brick houses and tree-lined borders almost look like they’ve always been there.
5. John Street, Seattle, U.S.
John Street in Seattle was formerly tired and nondescript, a nowhere place marked by a dead-end sign and a few sad trees. Today it’s home to swish new office blocks; a remarkable and much-needed change that’s put John Street back on the map.
4. Mountain View, California, U.S.
In 2007, with nothing but rolling tarmac, this parking lot in Mountain View, California, was a functional if drab space, under-utilized but full of potential. By 2014 developers had transformed it into a vibrant new zone complete with commercial and residential units, a community park and contemporary paving.
3. Quai de Lazaret, Marseille, France
Has your hometown experienced changes as dramatic as this street in Marseille, France? If so, you may want to contribute to Urb-i’s growing database. In fact, it’s always looking for new before-and-after images, especially if they’re as dramatic as this.
2. West E Street, San Diego, U.S.
You can source images such as these, which reveal the sleek makeover of West E Street in San Diego, directly from Google Street View – just look for the “time machine” clock button. Before beginning, though, you might also want to check the schedule of Google’s endlessly roaming Street View cars.
1. Haven Noordzijde, Almelo, Netherlands
Contributing to Urb-i not only means participating in an exciting collaborative venture, but helping to change the way we perceive urban spaces – like this one in Almelo, Netherlands. Indeed, the site’s collection could conceivably encourage citizens to demand cleaner, greener, pedestrian-friendly spaces, as well as informing planners how to go about making them.