Google Street View turned 10 years old last year.
The technology allows people from anywhere in the world to explore landmarks, natural wonders, and even their own front yards.
Over the years, Google Street View has captured some spectacular public-space makeovers: A parking lot became a park, a crosswalk got the cobblestone treatment, a footpath was stretched out. In the life of a pedestrian, these changes — big and small — make a big difference.
In 2015, a Brazilian urban planning collective called Urb-i (shorthand for Urban Ideas) set out to show examples of these transformations with an inspiring before-and-after gallery of Google Street View images. The gallery has racked up 3,000 images from over 50 countries.
Yuval Fogelson, Carolina Guido, Fernanda Mercês, and Rodolfo Macedo founded Urb-i in 2015.
Yuval Fogelson spends hours diving into the search engine's rabbit hole, scanning the world for stunning public space redesigns that favour pedestrians over vehicles.
In some areas, Google Street View offers a timeline of images, so you can see how a space has evolved over time.
Urb-i began curating the images in a gallery, hoping to showcase public spaces that put pedestrians -- and cyclists -- first.
'I have already developed a few strategies to finding these transformations, and quite frankly, I'm addicted,' says Fogelson.
The group keeps tabs on urban transformation blogs and architectural projects, so they know where to check on Google Street View.
Today, Urb-i's before-and-after gallery contains more than 3,000 public-space transformations from around the world.
In São Paulo, Brazil, where Urb-i's members work at a socially responsible architecture firm, this curb got a new life with paving and a park bench.
The makeovers vary in scale. This alleyway in San Francisco is nearly unrecognizable after getting an outdoor seating area installed.
Two pavilions made of glass and steel jazzed up this street in Milan, Italy. A ticket office and a cultural event space operate inside.
'If designed well,' Urb-i says, a public space 'functions as a place of permanence where we socialise, rather than just a passage to get us from Point A to Point B.'
Montréal's Avenue du Musée doesn't disappoint either, with a rotating sculpture installation available for public viewing.
Designers get creative with pavement, too. A semi-circle pattern spruced up a public space in Lower Manhattan.
Not far away in Lisbon, Portugal, pedestrians and motorists seem to share the space, instead of competing for it.
While Fogelson curates most of the before-and-after images himself, there is a way public-space enthusiasts can help.
In January, Urb-i started a collaborators program so people can volunteer time searching for transformations on Google Street View.
He hopes to eventually launch a platform where people can share proposals for future before-and-after public space transformations.
'We are seeking to create a bottom-up network which will connect professionals, residents, designers, and hopefully decision-makers,' Fogelson says.
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