41 amazing public space transformations captured by Google Street View

Cities are built for humans.

But if you look at the layout of most of them, it looks like they’re made for cars.

Especially in the world’s most populated places. In São Paulo, Brazil — which boasts over 10 million residents — a third of the people travel by car, another third takes public transit, and another walks. Yet cars take up a majority of the roads and public spaces.

Seeing that, a Brazilian urban planning collective called Urb-i set out to demonstrate that imbalance and show off examples of more people-friendly design. They scoured Google Street View images to find the most stunning public space transformations from around the world.
The results give us hope that our cities are becoming more beautiful places to live.

Traffic lanes and parking take precedent over green spaces and outdoor seating. People travelling on foot are quarantined to tiny footpaths.

Victor Moriyama/Getty
Sãn Paulo, Brazil.

It just doesn't seem fair. Fortunately, the founders of Urb-i -- Carolina Guido, Fernanda Mercês, Rodolfo Macedo, and Yuval Fogelson -- have an addiction of their own ...

Noordwal, The Hague, The Netherlands.

They're obsessed with Google Street View.

Klyde Warren Park, Dallas, TX, USA.

The foursome would spend hours diving into the search engine's rabbit hole, scanning the world for stunning public space redesigns that favour pedestrians over vehicles.

Plaza de la Encarnación, Seville, Spain.

In some areas, Google Street View offers a timeline of images, so you can see how a space has evolved over time.

Times Square, New York City, NY, USA.

It's pretty satisfying to see the results.

Gwangjingyo, Seoul, South Korea.

Urb-i began curating the images in a gallery, hoping to showcase public spaces that put pedestrians (and cyclers) first.

Wipstrikkerallee, Zwole, The Netherlands.

They keep tabs on urban-transformation blogs and architectural projects, so they know where to check on Google Street View.

Ferenciek tere, Budapest, Hungary.

The before and after images look like reflections, thanks to carefully angled screenshots.

Muscat Street, Singapore.

Today, Urb-i's before-and-after gallery contains more than 300 public space transformations from around the world.

Griffith Park Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA, USA.

In São Paulo, Brazil, where Urb-i's members work at a socially responsible architecture firm, this alleyway got a new life with a fresh coat of pavement and colourful flags.

Rua Trés Arapongas, São Paulo, Brazil.

The makeovers vary in scale. A side street in Antwerp, Belgium, is nearly unrecognizable after an outdoor eating area and greenery are added.

Amsterdamstraat, Antwerp, Belgium.

A gas station becomes a parking lot, then a restaurant, in Cape Town, South Africa.

Bree Street, Cape Town, South Africa.

Two whole traffic lanes disappeared from Budapest, Hungary, giving locals and tourists more space to take in the harbour views.

Idosebb Antall József rakpart, Budapest, Hungary.

Sometimes all it takes is a crosswalk, as demonstrated in Southport, Australia.

Young Street, Southport, Australia.

'For the pedestrian, an extra meter or two of footpath means a whole lot,' Urb-i says.

Broadway and East 17th Street, New York City, NY, USA.

Size isn't the only thing that matters.

Gosford Street, Coventry, UK.

'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.'

Place des Jacobins, Lyon, France.

Let's take a look at some more examples ...

Rue Garibaldi, Lyon, France.

A little greenery goes a long way in Bordeux, France.

Chateau d'Eau, Bordeux, France.

Motorists in Palermo, Italy, can enjoy the shrubbery, too.

Via Maqueda, Palermo, Italy.

A Detroit, Michigan, swamp makes way for a park.

Atwater Street, Detroit, MI, USA.

Shrubs brighten up a quiet street in Lyon, France.

Rue du Général Mouton-Duvernet, Lyon, France.

Copenhagen actually removed some greenery to make space for pedestrians.

Hauser Plads, Copenhagen, Denmark.

Horsham, an English market town, looks like a postcard with its patterned pavement.

East Street, Horsham, UK.

This Mexico City street looks infinitely easier to navigate on foot.

De La República, Mexico City, Mexico.

A widened, simplified cross walk makes navigating Seoul's busy streets a little easier.

Yeonse-ro, Seoul, South Korea.

In Budapest, Hungary, a well-manicured curb looks (and smells) far more pleasant than a bunch of trash cans.

Csarnok tér, Budapest, Hungary.

Montreal's entertainment district is transformed by planter boxes and outdoor seating.

Rue St. Hubert, Montreal, Canada.

Copenhagen has a case of the spots.

Vester Voldgade, Copenhagen, Denmark.

London's Granary Square gets a face-lift.

Granary Square, London, UK.

In Ipswich, England, these cement cubes offer a place to sit.

Friars Bridge Road, Ipswich, UK.

Cobblestone is back in style in Łódź, Poland.

6 Sierpnia, Łódź, Poland.

We love this pop of colour in Seoul.

Anam Ogori, Seoul, South Korea.

You won't find any cars in this beautiful New York City hub.

Coenties Slip, New York City, NY, USA.

An overpass in Seoul provides a whole new view.

Anam-ro / Seognbukcheon, Seoul, South Korea.

A bustling street in Napoli, Italy, becomes a tranquil walkway.

Via Miguel Cervantes de Saavedra, Napoli, Italy.

Bikes reign supreme in Copenhagen.

Regnbuepladsen, Copenhagen, Denmark.

This corner in New York City looks totally different.

45th Avenue, New York City, NY, USA.

A unique piece of art sits at the center of this redesigned public space in The Netherlands.

Sassenpoort, Zwolle, The Netherlands.

A park takes the place of a parking lot in Queens.

Dutch Kills Green, Queens, NY, USA.

You can see more before-and-after images and contribute your own by visiting Urb-i's website.

Lougheed Highway, Burnaby, Canada.

Learn more about Urb-i »

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