50 incredible public-space transformations captured by Google Street View

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Budapest, Hungary.
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Urb-i/Google Street View

Google Street View turned 10 years old in 2017. 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 sidewalk 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.


We are a society “addicted to cars,” according to the four young founders of Urb-i.

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Traffic halts in New Delhi, India.
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Getty Images/Daniel Berehulak

Yuval Fogelson, Carolina Guido, Fernanda Mercês, and Rodolfo Macedo founded Urb-i in 2015.


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

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An aerial view of São Paulo, Brazil.
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Nacho Doce/Reuters

It just doesn’t seem fair. Fortunately, the founders of Urb-i have an addiction of their own …

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Aalsmeerplein, Amsterdam, The Netherlands.
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Urb-i/Google Street View

They’re obsessed with Google Street View.

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Ferenciek tere, Budapest, Hungary.
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Urb-i/Google Street View

Yuval Fogelson spends hours diving into the search engine’s rabbit hole, scanning the world for stunning public space redesigns that favor pedestrians over vehicles.

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Cumberland St., Sydney, Australia.
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Urb-i/Google Street View

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

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Times Square, New York City, United States of America.
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Urb-i/Google Street View

It’s pretty satisfying to see the results.

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Moscow Zachatyevskiy per., Moscow, Russia.
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Urb-i/Google Street View

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

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Retsif Herbert Samuel St., Tel Aviv-Yafo, Israel.
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Urb-i/Google Street View

“I have already developed a few strategies to finding these transformations, and quite frankly, I’m addicted,” says Fogelson.

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Praça Mauá, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
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Urb-i/Google Street View

The group keeps tabs on urban transformation blogs and architectural projects, so they know where to check on Google Street View.

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Van Gogh Walk, London, England.
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Urb-i/Google Street View

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

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Krymskaya nab., Moscow, Russia.
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Urb-i/Google Street View

Today, Urb-i’s before-and-after gallery contains more than 3,000 public-space transformations from around the world.

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Gwanggyo, Seoul, South Korea.
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Urb-i/Google Street View

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.

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R. Barão de Campinas, São Paulo, Brazil.
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Urb-i/Google Street View

The makeovers vary in scale. This alleyway in San Francisco is nearly unrecognizable after getting an outdoor seating area installed.

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Annie Alley, San Francisco, United States.
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Urb-i/Google Street View

Two pavilions made of glass and steel jazzed up this street in Milan, Italy. A ticket office and a cultural event space operate inside.

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Via Luca Beltrami, Milan, Italy.
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Urb-i/Google Street View

Archways added some decadence to a side street in Singapore.

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Muscat St., Singapore.
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Urb-i and Google Street View

Sometimes all it takes is a sidewalk.

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Osborne St., Auckland, New Zealand.
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Urb-i/Google Street View

“For the pedestrian, an extra meter or two of sidewalk means a whole lot,” Urb-i says.

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Cogelsplein, Antwerpen, Belgium.
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Urb-i/Google Street View

But walking space isn’t the only thing that matters.

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R. Antonio de Albuquerque, Belo Horizonte, Brazil.
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Urb-i/Google Street View

“If designed well,” Urb-i says, a public space “functions as a place of permanence where we socialize, rather than just a passage to get us from Point A to Point B.”

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Gansevoort St., New York City, United States.
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Urb-i/Google Street View

Let’s take a look at some more examples.

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Myeongdong-gil, Jung-gu, Seoul, South Korea.
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Urb-i/Google Street View

A little greenery went a long way in Budapest, Hungary.

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Csarnok tér, Budapest, Hungary.
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Urb-i/Google Street View

Pedestrians can enjoy the shrubbery in Lyon, France, too.

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Avenue Général Brosset, Lyon, France.
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Urb-i/Google Street View

Fake trees and art installations work well in Montréal, Canada.

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Rue Victoria, Montréal, Canada.
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Urb-i/Google Street View

Montréal’s Avenue du Musée doesn’t disappoint either, with a rotating sculpture installation available for public viewing.

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Avenue du Musée, Montréal, Canada.
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Urb-i/Google Street View

A new boardwalk outside Seoul, South Korea, lends stunning views of a river.

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Gwanggyo, Seoul, South Korea.
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Urb-i/Google Street View

These planter boxes make for a perfect place to each lunch on a rare sunny day in Seattle.

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2nd Ave Ext S, Seattle, United States.
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Urb-i/Google Street View

There’s no more parking allowed on Van Gogh Walk in London, England.

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Van Gogh Walk, London, England.
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Urb-i/Google Street View

Designers get creative with pavement, too. A semi-circle pattern spruced up a public space in Lower Manhattan.

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Coenties Slip, New York City, United States.
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Urb-i/Google Street View

Copenhagen, Denmark, has a case of the spots.

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Vester Voldgade, Copenhagen, Denmark.
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Urb-i/Google Street View

Madrid, Span, got its own, star-studded walk of fame.

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Calle de Martín de los Heros, Madrid, Spain.
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Urb-i/Google Street View

Across town in Madrid, a public space got the cobblestone treatment.

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Plaza Sta. Bárbara, Madrid, Spain.
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Urb-i/Google Street View

Where once there were cars, bicycles reign supreme in Copenhagen, Denmark.

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Regnbuepladsen, Copenhagen, Denmark.
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Urb-i/Google Street View

A main artery in Brussels, Belgium, got a bike lane for safety.

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Waversesteenweg, Brussels, Belgium.
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Urb-i/Google Street View

Almada, Portugal, looks like a postcard with its new public square.

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R. Cândido dos Reis, Almada, Portugal.
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Urb-i/Google Street View

Not far away in Lisbon, Portugal, pedestrians and motorists seem to share the space, instead of competing for it.

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R. Fialho de Almeida, Lisbon, Portugal.
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Urb-i/Google Street View

London’s Granary Square got a face-lift.

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Granary Square, London, England.
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Urb-i/Google Street View

In Tel Aviv, Israel, a raised platform offers a place to rest while you run errands.

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Yehuda ha-Levi St, Tel Aviv, Israel.
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Urb-i/Google Street View

You won’t find any cars in this beautiful grove in Amsterdam.

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Iepenplein, Amsterdam, The Netherlands.
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Urb-i/Google Street View

Paris, France, swapped a roadway for public transit, giving pedestrians a whole new view.

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Boulevard Masséna, Paris, France.
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Urb-i/Google Street View

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

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Bree St., Cape Town, South Africa.
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Urb-i and Google Street View

A bustling street in Belo Horizonte, Brazil, was turned into a tranquil walkway.

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R. Pernambuco, Belo Horizonte, Brazil.
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Urb-i/Google Street View

We might even call this an excessive amount of sidewalk in Budapest, Hungary.

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Idősebb Antall József rakpart, Budapest, Hungary.
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Urb-i/Google Street View

This intersection in Lyon, France, looks totally different.

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Avenue Général Brosset, Lyon, France.
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Urb-i/Google Street View

Over in Toulouse, France, a park took the place of a parking lot.

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Allée Jules Guesde, Toulouse, France.
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Urb-i/Google Street View

This makeover in Seattle is just stunning.

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Marion St., Seattle, United States.
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Urb-i/Google Street View

While Fogelson curates most of the before-and-after images himself, there is a way public-space enthusiasts can help.

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Mr. Visserplein, Amsterdam, Netherlands.
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Urb-i/Google Street View

In January, Urb-i started a collaborators program so people can volunteer time searching for transformations on Google Street View.

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Fort St., Auckland, New Zealand.
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Urb-i/Google Street View

He hopes to eventually launch a platform where people can share proposals for future before-and-after public space transformations.

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Place Cardinal Mercier, Jette Brussels, Belgium.
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Urb-i/Google Street View

“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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Rue Alphonse Vandenpeereboom, Brussels, Belgium.
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Urb-i/Google Street View

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

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Balfour St., Chippendale, Australia.
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Urb-i/Google Street View