The World: Now and then

New York

The development of New York city in four easy pictures, for your viewing pleasure. Notice the significant jump in the height of the buildings by 1932? Most of this had only occurred within the couple of years before the second photo was taken: 1930-31 saw construction of five New York skyscrapers that are still among the top ten tallest today, among them the monumental Empire State Building (see the list here).

September 11th 2001 lies glaringly between the last two photos. The (unknown) creator of this particular montage has penned-in the 1 World Trade Center building (a.k.a. ‘Freedom Tower’) which is currently under construction at Ground Zero. It is set to be completed in 2013. Long may it stand.

New York Now and Then

Via A Blog about History

Large version here.

San Francisco

In 1906, San Francisco experienced one of the most devastating earthquakes in history. Reportedly measuring around 8 on the Richter scale, the shaking was felt from Oregon to Los Angeles along the coast, and as far inland as Nevada. The earthquake caused fires that destroyed almost the entire city of San Francisco, resulting in an estimated death toll of over 3,000.

The photo below was taken just over a month after the event, making the San Francisco earthquake one of the first natural disasters to be recorded on film (see the photo in all its amazing detail here). By 2006, the city has managed to rebuild itself quite nicely, and even added a couple of bridges (the Golden Gate bridge is off the frame – but it’s definitely there!)

San Francisco Now and Then

Via  StrangeCosmos and Digital Sky Aerial Photography.

See them in more detail here: 1906 and 2006


Opinions seem to differ on the date of the first picture – it could have been taken in the 80s – but either way it’s clear that it’s a picture of very little. Now just add a little oil, sprinkle with some laissez-faire building regulations, fast-forward only halfway through one of the biggest construction booms of the modern world, and the result by 2003 is a significant facelift for Dubai’s Sheikh Zayed Road. No longer such a lonely place!

But Dubai didn’t stop in 2003. In 2010 it topped the Ultrapolis charts for having the tallest tall buildings in the world. That’s helped to no small degree by the undisputed world champion tall building, the Burj Khalifa. If you want a raw vision of the future, take a look at it here – those dwarves next to it are also skyscrapers!

Dubai Now and Then

Via BespokeCashmere


This is what happens when the Chinese government says, “Right, we are now going to develop this area.” Pictured is only one small part of the city of Shanghai, but, my, how quickly it has grown up! Since 1990, Shanghai has built…wait for it…6,704 buildings of 11 stories or more! That includes the former tallest building in the world (and current tallest hotel), the Shanghai World Financial Center.

What makes these pictures all the more remarkable is that the buildings almost seem to chart China’s economic development. Take a look at this trade graph between 1990 and 2010. Amazing stuff!

Unfortunately, Shanghai is having to calm down a bit on the construction front these days, as the city is sinking at the rate of about one and a half centimetres a year. Well, it is built on a drained swamp. Doh!

Shanghai Now and Then

Via BusinessInsider

Newcastle upon Tyne

And now to the home of Amazing Stuff, Newcastle upon Tyne in the north-east of England. Granted, not a great deal of skyscrapers here – none, to be precise – but there are loads of bridges. The one just being completed there in 1928 is the Tyne Bridge. That’s a good 9 years before the Golden Gate Bridge, incidentally. Of course, the first bridge over the Tyne was the Pons Aelius, built by the Romans in the year 122 AD. Oh yes, we’re old hands at this.

Newcastle Now and Then

Via Francis FrithRoxy Risque,  Bridges on the Tyne

Upsala glacier (Argentina)

Here is the other side of the developmental coin. As the cities grow, amazing natural features are fading away. The Upsala glacier (named after the Swedish university that first sponsored research in the area) is one of the most potent examples of this. One of 47 glaciers in Argentina’s Los Glaciares National Park, it has shrunk by 5km between 1980-2000.

Glaciers throughout the Andes are retreating so fast that some are expected to disappear within 10-20 years, threatening food and water supplies in Colombia, Peru, Chile, Venezuela, Ecuador, Argentina and Bolivia. The same drastic trend has been observed throughout the world since the 1980s.

These photos were used as part of a Greenpeace campaign to highlight global warming. They also produced this video.

Upsala Glacier Now and Then

Via Treehugger

The rest of the world

Environmental author Fred Pearce has put together two books that feature yet more amazing images of the world now and then. (N.B. The widget below links to To browse Fred Pearce’s books on, click here)

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Ezra says:

Did anyone else spot the airship that EJ pointed out? I don’t see it!

EJ says:

Look about a centimeter under the “O” in SAN FRANCISCO 1906 and you’ll see a cloud with a roughly round dark smudge. Now follow the link to the full size image and look in the same cloud space, you’ll see the Ophelia.

Boston Blackie says:

I like the picture of the Upsala Glacier the best. That has come a long way towards being an appropriate habitat for any number of diverse animals. Much better than the barren landscape that it used to be.

Interesting perspective; I’d never thought of it like that …

It’ll be a shame for the animals when we have to move our cities up there though …!

EJ says:

I am rather amused that no one appears to have caught the airship in the 1906 San Francisco image (far upper left). Whilst the image is certainly real, this copy is a photoshopped version that contains the “HMS Ophelia,” a fictional airship from a US Steampunk band named Abney Park.

Nice spot EJ! Where can I get a pair of glasses like yours? I’ve the original image on Wikimedia.

Interestingly, this image was actually taken by a real airship. More about that here.

Larry says:

Umm we are not in 2013 yet? Why are you showing New York in 2013? Mass fail….

Amazing Stuff says:

Because One World Trade Centre isn’t built yet… That’s why it’s in pink…

Best photo we could find to match the others!

Tara says:

Mass fail for not understanding what the photo was representing…

I love this collection of now and then!

katee says:

thats the estimation, duuhh – mass fail for you 🙂

Annand says:

I am pretty sure you fail since it is showing what it WILL look like with the new tower that will be built in 2013. Check the pink building? You fail