40 Examples of Amazing Transformations of Urban Spaces: Before and After
Architecture around the world has undergone a lot of changes in the last decades. With the times it’s not just the lifestyle of the cities that adapted but also its public spaces. From entire new skylines to greener public spaces here we have accumulated a collection of 40 examples of amazing transformations.
Let the before and afters inspire you and inform you about the ever-changing buildings from across the globe.
1. Klyde Warren Park
In 2006 Architect James Burnett unveiled his design to put a lid on the Freeway going through Dallas, Texas.
The idea was first met with a lot of scepticism as a park including a theater stage, sport facilities and 322 trees weighs a lot.
By using geofoam the problem could be solved and by 2009 the city had enough funding to put the foundation over the streets.
General Contractors Archer Western and McCarthy Building Cos. finished the 21,000 square meter park in October 2012, after an expense of nearly 80 million USD.
2. Rio Madrid Project
The Manzanares river going through Madrid has been surrounded by highways since the 70s and didn’t leave much room for romantic scenes. It wasn’t until the second half of the 20th century that Major Alberto Ruiz-Gallardon signed off the project that would turn the streets into a green space.
Spanish architect collective West 8 designed the new area, which would be split up in individual components offering anything from green space to skate parks and restaurants.
In 2003 the highways were moved into 43 kilometre long tunnels to make space for the new park, which habitats over 8500 lamps; 5500 seating areas; 33 bridges connecting the two overhauled riversides.
Over 4 million euros later in 2010 the project was completed and completely open to the public.
3. A’Beckett Urban Square
For years the RMIT University in Melbourne Australia used the 2800 squaremeter space as a car park surrounded by its academic buildings.
In 2012 the cities Mayor took a stand against inactive property owners and sparked a wave of urban interventions, including the RMIT A’Beckett Urban Square.
The former car park was turned into ‘pop-up’ park in 2013 and completed a year later for all the students to use,
Peter Elliot Architecture + Urban Design took over the 1.2 million USD project and designed a space designated for active and casual engagement, incorporating sport courts, landscaping, BBQ facilities and bike parking.
The urban space is only a temporary use for the space, until MRIT continues with its own expansions.
4. Place de la Republique
As the largest and one of the most important squares in Paris, the Place de la Republique attracts thousands of visitors every day. Before it became a social hub in the city in 2013, it was more of a traffic hub, surrounded by cars and streets taking up more than two thirds of the area.
The agency TVK consisting of Pierre Alain Trévelo and Antoine Viger-Kohler redesigned the whole square and ‘gave it back to the Parisienne’.
After a 2 year renovation process the area designated for pedestrians increased from 12,000 sqm2 to 24,000sqm2 and opened the stop for many businesses and activities.
One of Austria’s most prominent shopping streets has followed Paris’ example and gave the space back to the people through an amazing transformation. The 1,6km long street used to focus on the cars driving through and left little room for the shoppers walking through.
Once the different street levels were removed the visitors started to use the entire space and brought live to the city.
In 2010 the council decided to remove all traffic from certain areas of the street and turned it into a pedestrian only walk.
6. Brooklyn Bridge Park
The Brooklyn Bridge Park is barely 10 years old but holds one of the most remarkable transformations around the city in the recent years. Manhattans skyline has been solid for a few decades but the neighbouring district across the river has been lacking some development.
In 2002 the Mayor and Governor signed a Memorandum of Understanding to agree on creating the Brooklyn Bridge Park and formed the Brooklyn Bridge Park Development Corporation (BBPDC). The corporation put together a master plan in 2004 for the piers that go along the river.
Several of the Piers along the waterfront were redesigned by Architecture firm WXY Studios.
In 2010 Pier 1 opened to the public and has since become one of the cities favourite spots.
The stream passing through Cheonggyecheon was hidden underneath a multiple story freeway before the city decided that instead of renovating the ageing concrete it was time to transform the area.
The government wanted to connect the two sides of the city which were separated through the freeway without creating traffic congestion.
SeoAhn Total Landscape came up with a design which would both allow the people to make use of the stream again and continue the flow of traffic in the city.
22 bridges were build across the water, 12 for pedestrians and 10 for automobiles. The public transport system in the centre got a push and the use of cars has also been discouraged by the Seoul Metropolitan Government.
8. Alaskan Way Viaduct
An earthquake hit Seattle in 2001 and destroyed parts of the city, including the multilane freeway Alaskan Freeway, going along the pier.
Instead of rebuilding it the city decided to change parts of the lanes underground to allow the space to be used for pedestrians. After a 10 year debate between council, public and government whether to keep the highway over or underground the reconstruction by the Washington State Department of Transportation began in 2011.
Known as the Highway 99 Project the new tunnel cost the city nearly 3.3 billion USD and was opened with a 2 year delay in 2018.
9. Pier Freeway
The Piers of San Francisco are one of the main attractions the city has to offer. Similar to Seattle the Pier used to be blocked by a highway viaduct for years until an earthquake damaged it severely in 1989.
The removal opened the pier to development and created an open space in one of the busiest areas. 3,000 new housing units, 2 million square feet of offices and 375,000 square feet of retail replaced the former traffic centre.
10. Denver Union Station
The original Denver Union Station was built in 1868 by architects Taylor, A.; Fairfield & Burton.
Today the old beaux arts style building isn’t recognisable after RTD purchased the building in 2001 and developed a master plan to renovate the station and 79,000 square meter surrounding it.
The plan layed out to construct the new site in a single phase and the partner agencies selected Hargreaves Associates and Skidmore, Orwings & Merrill to design the space.
The 500 million USD renovation didn’t just create a new train station but simultaneously started the renovation of historic buildings in the surrounding area.
11. Berlin Central Station
The central station in Berlin is the main station in Germany, connecting the capital to the rest of the country. Underneath the modern glass construction is the historic site of the Lehrter Bahnhof, which stood on the ground from 1871 until the end of World War 2 where it was heavily damaged.
In 1998 it was decided that it was time for a new station to reunited the formerly divided city.
The construction began with building tunnels connecting the stations across Berlin and laying down the foundation stone.
Through winning a design competition the Hamburg architect Gerkan, Marg and Partners took over planning the station that opened in 2007.
12. Times Square
Before Times Square become the embodiment for Manhattan hyper-density, it was on the verge of overflowing. Underneath the millions of pedestrians and cars is the busiest station on the New York metro line.
In 2008 Mayor Michael Bloomberg and the Department of Transportation decided to make the square accessible again.
Jan Gehl and his team came together with Sadik-Khan to develop a design that would introduce bike lanes and pedestrian Plaza’s instead of multilane streets.
In the same year the renovation allowed for a New Years Eve celebration on the new Times Square.
13. TVG Station
Paris based architect Marc Mimram designed a ‘Garden-Station’, with the intention of allowing travellers to see the surroundings and seasons outside the building.
The new station was proposed in 2014 and the design features pleats going across the concrete roof to throw shadows across the station.
In collaboration with Emmanuel Nebout, contractor EGIS and developer Icade the team worked on the 142 million Euro station starting in 2015.
14. Shanghai Skyline
It only took 20 years to turn Shanghai into the metropolis we know it as today. In 1990 it was already a world commerce hub but showed green space instead of skyscrapers along the river.
After the economic reform it into the largest cargo port in the world and the architecture grew with it.
Remarkable buildings in the new skyline include the tallest building in China, the Shanghai Tower, designed by Jun Xia and built from 2008 to 2014 by the contractor Shanghai Construction Group.
Close second is the Shanghai World Financial Center designed by Kohn Peterson Fox in 1997.
15. Singapore Skyline
The tiny city-state and Island has had severe changes in its skyline since it became independent from Malaysia over 50 years ago. It’s hard to believe that constructions like Marina Bay Sands were only added to the scenery 10 years ago.
The building was designed by Moshe Safdie and Aedas Singapore in 2007 and opened to host celebrities and sports from across the world in 2010.
Only a year later in 2011 Safdie left another print on the skyline by designing the Art Science Museum shaped like a lotus flower.
16. Dubai Skyline
In 2 decades Dubai transformed from a desert city to a one-of-a-kind metropolis counting the tallest building in the world as part of its skyline.
The Burj Khalifa is construction of superlative designed by Skidmore, Owings & Merrill LLP from Chicago and with consultation of Adrian Smith FAIA, RIBA in 2004. In 2010 the city celebrated its opening and the 1.5 billion project came to an end.
30,000 apartments, 9 hotels, a mall and a lake can be found in the construction that broke all records.
17. Doha Skyline
The transformations in the middle east are incomparable to renovations in Europe or the USA.
Until the 90’s Doha was a small fishing community until the country started tapping into the oil and gas industry. Now, Qatar is one of the leading exporters in the world and has the skyline to match the skyrocketing industry.
The city isn’t done expanding as it currently has 47 buildings under construction. The Doha Tower is one of the more subtle additions to the cityscape build from 2005- 2012. The city is said to spend 65 billion USD on new projects and infrastructure including the stadium for the World Cup 2022.
Shanghai has undergone a rapid development in the past years but the fasted growing city in China is Shenzen in the south.
The former green area has now turned into the first and most successful Special Economic Zone in the country.
Danish studio Henning Larsen is working on building a new city centre in collaboration with two Chinese consortiums.
The new public space is aiming to relocate the people to the waterfront.
The city on the Brazilian coast gained tourism in 2014 as it was one of the host cities of the World Cup. Between 1975 and now it also gained a remarkable skyline going along the beach side.
20. Rio De Janeiro Olympic Park
Before hosting the Olympics in 2016 Rio de Janeiro had to undergo an immense transformation.
Completely new sport facilities were built in the years leading up to the games and changed the landscape of the city.
The London based firm Wilkinson Eyre designed the largest part of the Olympic park, a conjunction of 3 arenas all holding different sporting events. He gave the master plan to local firm Arqhos Consultoria e Projetos, who brought the vision to live.
21. Las Vegas
Vegas is known for its extravagance and excess but before there was gambling and a second Eiffel Tower, the desert town was merely there for necessity.
A few hotels were built as a stop over for trade routes across the state and with the business came the customers.
60 years later the Las Vegas strip and CityCentre is illuminated from casinos and hotels and it became the fastest growing area in America.
22. Subway Line 4
Before the Olympics Brazil didn’t just improve their sport facilities but also gave Rio’s infrastructure a push.
The new subway line 4 was build to connect the city to the event venues. The modern Design was proposed by firm Odebrecht.
It ended up opening with a delay and almost double the initial cost with 3.1 billion USD just in time for the games.
It was only made accessible to the general public in late 2017.
23. Berlin Parliament
World War 2 left a lot of the historical buildings in Europe in ruins. The German parliament in Berlin has its seat in the Reichstag which was also a victim of bombs.
Instead of removing what was left, the city decided to revive the construction and renovated the building with modern additions.
In 1993 UK designer Fosters and Partners won a competition with a design that didn’t include the glass dome that is now seen as a symbol of Berlin.
Only in 1995 the dome and its spiral staircase got introduced to the design and now attract over a million visitors each year.
The renovation cost the state over 300 million euros.
24. St. Louis Church
The St. Louis Church in Memphis Tennessee was first built in the late 1950’s with an, back-then, modern design. The original construction didn’t let much natural light into the building and in 2014 it was time to give the Church a makeover.
Already existing parts and a new altar and baldacchino were combined and kept in a similar style. The most drastic change was the new stained glass behind the altar which included artificial lighting, in order to bring life into the building.
25. Holy Name of Jesus Church
The Catholic church located in Brooklyn raised nearly 1 million USD to be able to restore the building and give the altar a new look.
What visitors previously described as ‘upside down’ hockey sticks, has now made place for a marble centerpiece which brings live into the historical place.
A lot of the renovation was done by the parishioners themselves giving back to their community.
In 2014 the church opened again for its first mass with its brand new altar.
26. Salem Jail
The Salem Jail was the oldest operating penitentiary in the States until it closed down in 1991. The living conditions were said to be so bad that inmates sued the country, and won.
It took almost 2 decades until developers David Goldman and Dennis Kanin from the New Boston Ventures picked up the abandoned building and turned it into luxury apartments and a restaurant.
The restoration cost nearly 12 million USD and was completed in 2010 with all the apartments quickly being rented out.
27. Tennessee Theatre
First opened in 1928 the theatre spent half a century entertaining generations in Knoxville with its movies.
After its closing it took 18 months and 300 million USD to give the building a well needed rehaul, lead by local firm McCarty Holsaple Architects.
Original elements of the theatre were kept intact and restored while the main stage got equipped for performing arts.
28. Boyle Hotel
Starting out as a luxury hotel in 1889 the Boyle Hotel made a promising place for shops and guests. With time the businesses left the area and the building deteriorated and after being left alone for years.
It took 24 million USD to bring back to life.
New roof, floors, doors and furniture were added by Richard Barron Architects and in 2012 it reopened as affordable apartments with new shops opening on the ground floor.
29. Art Hotel Paradiso
Ilmiodesign, have brought the Miami Beach style to Ibiza by taking on the renovation of the Art Hotel Paradiso.
With pastel colours and interior design inspired by 70’s Italian architects Artizoom, the hotel opened its doors to artists and travellers in 2018
The lobby of the hotel features a ‘Glass room’ in which one can sleep for free with the condition that the room is fully visible to people walking by.
30. Tung Fat Building
The building was first built in the 1960’s and hosted several apartments and businesses.
The name Tung Fat literally translates to ‘get rich together’ which was the original purpose of the office complex.
In 2015 Melbourne based firm KPDO gave the building a make over, creating luxury apartments while preserving the original structure.
The refurbishment costs HK$ 30 million and aims to inspire fellow architects to keep old buildings in Hong Kong alive rather than building new skyscrapers.
31. Garage Screen
The Garage screen in Moscow Russia is a modern take on an Open Cinema. Opened in 2015 the construction is designed to combine the experience of a closed cinema with an open air show. The visitors are still able to engage with the surroundings of the cinema while watching the movie.
photo source https://whitecube.com/news/news_and_events/Damian_Ortega_at_the_Garage_Museum_of_Contemporary_Art_Moscow
SYNDICATE architects created a space that was fully adaptable depending on seasons, with the roof being able to open up and the whole construction can be completely disassembled if the materials are needed elsewhere.
Known as the oldest and longest pedestrian street in the world Strøget goes through the heart of Copenhagen. While neither claim holds to be true, it was one of the inspirations to pedestrianise urban spaces in New York and other cities.
Already in 1962 it was decided to remove all traffic from the street and quickly turned the area into the shopping street.
Architect Jan Gehl studied the pedestrian walk in 1962 and found it to play a part in the policy shift to pedestrians and bicycles which still dominate Copenhagen to this day.
33. San Pablo Community
Transforming Urban Spaces doesn’t just revive old constructions, but also the life around it. In 2016 a group of female designers came into the neighbourhood and turned the sketchy shadows into a playground that parents let their kids play on.
Rozana Montriel and Alin V Wallach wanted to address one of the main issues in the country, which are the open spaces between buildings.
With low cost projects creating public spaces they increased the quality of life for many families.
A suburban neighbourhood in Amsterdam was facing similar issues as New Mexico.
The ‘garden-city’ apartments in Slotervaart were popular choices for workers in the 60’s but left alone since then the area wasn’t populated enough to grow.
Several architects took over different parts of the district and turned the empty spaces into dense and elegant apartments.
Paul de Ruiter created a school, child care centre, housing and a park out of a single public housing courtyard.
Denmark promotes the use of bicycle over automobiles and reflects this in their landscaping. Previously a car park, Regnbuepladsen is now a pedestrian area with possibilities to lock your bike.
After its renovation the square opened with a new name as a tribute to the LGBT+ Community.
36. Gemini Residence
Bjarke Ingles and his group have played a significant role in the urban development of Copenhagen.
One of the area’s he’s transformed into a popular destination in summer is Islands Brygge, one of the harbour baths of the city.
The project was completed in 2003 and holds 5 pools with a capacity of 600 people.
Near the harbour baths is another notable transformation by MVRDV who turned two former silos into apartment buildings.
The Gemini Residence has the flats attached to the outside of the silos and a lobby the height of the building to allow the tenants to move up and down.
The construction took place from 2002 – 2005 and became a part of the modern harbour front in Islands Brygge.
37. High Line Park
Another one of New Yorks favourite parks has its roots in another public construction when it’s foundation was built in 1930 as a railway line.
It connected the warehouses on Manhattans west side until the 70’s when parts of it were demolished to make space for the automobile traffic.In 2003 architects James Corner Field Operations with Diller Scofidio + Renfro won a competition with their design to turn what was left of the train tracks into an elevated park. 6 years later the High Line Park opened to the public and goes along the New York skyline.
38. Axel Towers
While Scandinavian design is taking over the world, the local architecture isn’t being left behind.
Architect group Lundgaard & Tranberg Arkitekter has changed the scenery of Copenhagen. A newer addition is found next to one of the oldest constructions in the city Tivoli.
In 2016 the Axel Towers were completed, and opened several restaurants, offices and a public garden area.
39. Palm Islands
Landscape transformations in the United Arab Emirates are known for reaching the sky. The Palm Islands in Dubai show that the constructions have reached the waters as well.
Nakheel’s construction and property management company build the palm shaped artificial island on the coast of the metropol. The islands were build over 6 years from 2001 – 2007 and took millions of tons of rocks and sand from the Persian Golf.
The Jumeirah is a community of 50 smaller islands and hosts some of the most luxurious hotels of the city.
It isn’t the only artificial landmark on the coast. The World is a smaller island near the Palm, while The Universe and Dubai Waterfront were meant to join the landscape but constructions are currently on hold
40. Skanderberg Square
The Skanderberg Square in Tirana, Albania is one of the most important cultural and historical centre of the city.
Its boulevards connect several embassies and the presidential palace. In 2004 first renovation plans were made to create a more densified city centre but the drastic change in skyline was met with protest by the public.
Between 2008 and 2011 the architect firm 51N4E proposed a different design that would turn the square into a pedestrian only zone. The area isn’t flat but shaped like a 4 sided pyramid with 2.5% slope.
The renovation completed in 2017 won the European Prize for Public Space in 2018.
Click on the map below to see where in the world to find these amazing Transformation.
Have there been any impressive transformations in your city? Let us know and comment below!