As a quick but dramatic way to visualize changes in the landscape, Texas architect Samuel Aston Williams created GIFs out of aerial maps of American cities from the past thirty years. Watch developments spiderweb, woodlands disappear, grids fill in, water sources shrink, and roads extend forever, over and over again!
Williams used Google's "Landsat Annual Time Lapse" tool and then looped the photographs. The images are incredible and enforce our idea of how cities have been changing in the past few decades.
Houston (1984 - 2012):
Chicago (1984 - 2012):
New York City (1984 - 2012):
Dallas, Fort Worth (1984 - 2012):
Talking to Atlantic Cities, Williams noted some frequently overlooked trends that these GIFs reveal like canopies maturing in older suburbs, giving a greener look to the close-in suburbs as well as an increase in white-roofed buildings in Philadelphia and Chicago, replacing darker tiles. Then of course, there are the obvious trends like massively unregulated urban distension.
Head to the Atlantic Cities for more entries, including international cities like Lagos, Nigeria as well as Shanghai. The development around the Pearl River Delta in China is particularly astounding.