By Anton Constantinou
To say that cities grow fast is an understatement. With the rate at which new buildings are going up, sources predict that by 2030, 60% of the world’s population will live in urban areas.
Continued urbanisation has changed the face of capitals around the world dramatically, rendering certain places giants of their former selves. In 2016, there were an estimated 31 megacities globally – meaning cities with more than 10 million residents – and that figure is forecasted to rise further in the decades to come.
Cities come in all shapes and sizes. Some let their skyscrapers do the talking, towering above at altitudes of 1,500m and more. More eco-friendly cities like Oslo and Freiburg look considerably greener from a bird’s eye view, while others retain their ancient history through old structures and landmarks.
Maps have long been used as a resource for making sense of the world, from early cartographic charts, to modern day transport apps. Take any city on the planet, and you’ll notice that a lot has changed in terms of its geographic depiction through the ages. Here are a series of new and old maps of super cities that illustrate just that point.
This early 18th century impression of the Netherlands’ capital is adorned with a coat of arms and features numerous points of interest. Detailed illustrations of ships reveal just how important trade was to Amsterdam at this time, having previously become one of the most significant ports in the world during the Dutch Golden Age.
Fast forward to the present day, and city looks heaps busier. Gone are the old typography and faint map index, and in its place are Java Eiland, Amsterdam’s Olympic stadium and long stretches of road.
Old Paris from above is a black and white haze of numbered blocks, broken up by the river Seine in the middle. The general hospital and royal military school are difficult to make out among the dotted fields, the same goes for the Bastille.
Modern day Paris is just as complex on the eye, but at least there’s some colour in there. The division of the city into arrondisments makes it look far more organised.
This Tudor impression looks somewhat utopian by modern standards. Wildlife can be glimpsed in the fields and there’s not a skyscraper in sight.
A present-day satellite image of the city, by comparison, is largely dominated by tube station symbols and backstreets, with parks providing the obvious green spaces. Also drawing the eye are galleries, museums and the Westfield shopping centre.
BerlinThe Berlin Wall was a barrier which separated East from West for the best part of thirty years. Otherwise known as the “Wall of Shame”, it restricted emigration in Germany, dividing families and causing people to lose their jobs. One look at this map, dated 1964, tells you everything you need to know about how imposing the wall actually was.
Without the wall in the place, Berlin looks much more unified. Its 2,500 public parks and gardens cover a great deal of landmass, and that’s visible from above.
In this time-lapse video we witness how dramatically Dubai has changed in the last 30 years or so.
Prior to the 1960s, Dubai was simply a fishing settlement and town. At the discovery of oil on its shores in 1966, it went on to become first a major trading hub, and then the most populous city in the United Arab Emirates. For a city with a short history, Dubai has grown ridiculously fast.
New YorkThe Big Apple has changed beyond all recognition since the late 19th century, going from a trading post to a global power metropolis. Early traces of New York’s famous grid system can be glimpsed in this 1860 map which neatly distinguishes between the city’s separate boroughs using a variety of bright colours.
High-rise buildings are what define modern day New York, from the One World Trade Center to the Bloomberg Tower. Were it not for the various rivers running through the city, you’ve be forgiven for thinking it was just one big concrete jungle.
San FranciscoSan Francisco wasn’t always the financial centre it is today. As this 1924 map reveals, public parks, squares and railroads were once a much greater distinguishing feature than the buildings themselves.
Now you can’t see the squares for tall buildings, of which there’s said to be more than 51 at 400ft or more. Oakland Bay Bridge is particularly eye catching, and, between its two sections, stretches from downtown San Francisco to Yerba Buena Island.
Back then it was mainly sand and rocky valleys, although gambier plantations can also be seen at the top and bottom of the map.
Visible differences to this present day map of Singapore include the Queenstown planning area, Changi Airport and the Sentosa island resort. There’s also the Paya Lebar Air Base, Punggol Waterway Park and Orchard Country Club, which collectively speak of a city-state which has advanced both culturally and commercially.