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Vancouver Abides
Jamais Cascio, 28 Feb 05

vancouverchange.jpgFor many of us, cities are the most tangible example of slow change. Buildings rise and fall, streets and wires unfurl, but at a pace which is simultaneously gradual enough to be almost invisible to our day-to-day wanderings, and still fast enough to be shockingly evident within the space of our lifetimes. That's what makes before/after and 'century cam' projects so particularly appealing when it comes to cities -- they collapse a slow change that normally only registers on the periphery of our consciousness down to an instant.

Alexandra Samuel points us to the City of Vancouver's community planning website, which has an abundance of before-after shots on a site called The Changing City. Probably the most gripping are the panoramas linked from the top of the site -- ultra wide images (over 3700 pixels wide) of various parts of the city (False Creek, Stanley Park, Granville Bridge), eight sets in all. In 1978, the first of these photos were taken for a planning study; in 2003, the images were re-shot, from more-or-less the same locations. Each before and after is set up to fade from one to the other, or flip back and forth as a rollover graphic (I found the rollovers to be much more reliable). The contrasts, the changes over 25 years, are startling, sometimes jarring.

(A minor nit -- unlike Douglas Levere's New York Changing project, the 2003 photographers did not take great pains to line up their cameras at exactly the same locations and angles as the original pictures. In the cropped combination shown here, for example, I had to rotate the top image by a few degrees to get it to line up better with the bottom. Some of the shots are off by much more than that.)

Follow the "Other Changes in the City" link for some more before/after shots of different buildings. The pictures are set up to contrast how much and how little some buildings change. They aren't as dramatic as the panoramas, but bring the changes down to a more human scale -- this corner, that apartment house.

Cities evolve at their own pace; projects like the Vancouver Changing City site give us a glimpse of that evolution.

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