LAPC #232: Looking Back in Time

Sofia’s theme this week is fascinating. She asks us to show how different aspects of nature, art, architecture, or transportation, for example, have evolved over the decades or even centuries. Since I love architecture and cities, I’ve decided to focus on them.

Architecture Then and Now

One evening, we saw a crowd gathered on a bridge in the Monti section of Rome. Curious, we made our way to that spot. In a wonderful “aha” moment, we saw this magnificent view of the Coliseum, where gladiators fought mock battles and raced chariots. In the foreground, modern streams of traffic are whizzing past. With a little imagination, I can almost see chariots and Romans in togas on this same road.

This ancient amphitheater, completed in 80 A.D., exhibits the classic Roman style with a highly-decorated exterior, dramatic arches, and underground rooms to “hide” gladiators, chariots and other props for the next spectacle. For centuries, this famous landmark has endured wars, floods, uprisings, invasions, and other cataclysmic events.

An interesting side note: if you’ve ever wondered how the Roman ruins have endured through the centuries, you can read an article about several engineers from MIT who just discovered the “secret sauce” in Roman concrete, which makes it extremely durable and strong.

The next image, also captured in Rome, reveals several different architectural styles–the Roman ruins in the foreground, a Renaissance-era defensive wall behind them, and behind that, 19th and 20th century apartment buildings.

On the far left, four marble columns were sculpted in the Corinthian style, which incorporates elaborate decorative details in the capitals. In the center, a medieval wall curves around the ruins. It was built to protect wealthy Romans from the criminals living amidst the ruins.

In the background, “modern” pink and yellow apartments from the late 19th and early 20th Centuries are still occupied by modern-day Romans.

In this recent photo of the New York skyline, you can see the newest ultra slim “coffee stirrer” towers amidst the older buildings from the 19th and 20th Centuries. The new towers soar far above the others and seem to defy the laws of gravity and engineering. The Steinway Tower, one of the newest and skinniest residential towers in New York City, is a quarter of a mile tall and 60-feet wide. Despite its beauty and incredible 360-degree views, residents complain that the upper floors sway as much as a few feet on windy days. There’s also the price–the most expensive apartment in the building costs 61 million USD (50 million British pounds).


Cities and Suburbs

Cities fascinate me–both ancient and modern. In this section of my post, you can see a collection of cities and their smaller suburban “cousins” captured over the decades.

Pompeii, a city of 2,000 people, was a vibrant and sophisticated Roman city, until it was buried under layers of ash after the catastrophic eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 A.D.

I’ll never forget this city captured on a visit to Southern Italy in the 1990’s. I never imagined that an ancient city could be designed with modern conveniences, like central heating and fast-food restaurants. The villas with their central gardens and pillared porticos were spacious and sophisticated. I remember thinking I’d love to live in a house built around gardens in an open central atrium.

As cities sprang up and expanded over the centuries, some architects and engineers made some miscalculations….like the one in Pisa. When construction of the tower began in 1173, engineers didn’t take into account the unstable foundation comprised of mud, sand and clay.

By the time the engineers were working on the third floor, the tower began to sink and list to one side. They tried to compensate by making the columns and arches on the sinking northern side slightly higher. The tower continued to sink until 1990 when engineers tried to stabilize the structure. They were able to shift the tower until it had reached the same position in 1838. To stabilize it, they added cables, trusses and counterweights under the structure.

Over time, places like rural America and Canada were the new frontier, home to pioneers who put down roots or immigrants searching for work and a place to call home. Some pioneer towns like Denver, Colorado, grew into cities. Others were abandoned and became ghost towns.

Dawson City is a frontier town in Canada in the Yukon Territory. It’s so far north that you can reach the Arctic Circle by plane in an hour. It has the typical unpaved streets and timber sidewalks, which resemble the dusty cowboy towns in the American West at the beginning of the 20th Century. According to the 2016 census, the population of Dawson City is 1,375, slightly smaller than Pompeii. I loved this glimpse of the past thriving in the present.

My husband and I were born during the post-World War II suburban boom on Long Island. In planned communities like Levittown, small houses sat on 1/7th of an acre, each with 2 trees in the front yard and a driveway leading to the front door. (There was no garage.).

Prospective home buyers could choose between two styles–the Cape Cod and ranch house. Each had 750 square feet (70 m2) with 2 bedrooms, a living room with a television, a kitchen with a small breakfast nook, and 1 bath.

Here, my husband (at 7-years-old) is proving that he can ride a bike down his street in Wantagh with no hands.

During decades of prosperity in the second half of the 20th Century, suburban developers on Long Island created bigger and more expensive homes, with two and three-car garages and multiple bedrooms. Houses expanded upwards and outwards. Farms, forests, and open fields were steadily converted into housing developments.

With a population today of over 8 million people, Long Island is the most populous island in the United States and the 18th-most populous in the world.

Despite the exodus to the suburbs, the population of New York City slowly increased. In 1950, the census tallied 7.8 million people. By 2000, it was over 8 million.

This image, taken when we lived in Manhattan, is a sad reminder of the catastrophic change to the New York City skyline on 9/11.

We’ve lived in cities, suburbia, and rural America. I’m not sure where we’ll live next, but I’m sure it will be in another city! A special thanks to Sofia for her Looking Back Challenge, which has given me a wonderful reason to look back through my archives and reflect about how cities, the suburbs, and architecture have evolved over time. Be sure to take a look at her inspiring post and photos. If you join us, include a link to her original post and use the Lens-Artists tag so we can easily find your post in the Reader.

Looking back at LAPC #231, a special thanks to John who invited us to share our favorite photos from 2022. It was easy to see why they were your favorites.

Looking ahead to next week, it’s Anne’s turn to take the lead. Be sure to stop by her beautiful site, Slow Shutter Speed, next Saturday at noon, EST to get all the details.

Until then, have a week with plenty of sunshine, good health and inspiration!

39 replies »

  1. Terrific take on the challenge Patti – especially enjoyed all of the architectural ruins as the world evolved around them. And of course NYC never disappoints, including the sad reminder of the twin towers. The image of the colosseum with the traffic going by is stunning!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks so much, Tina!! I was so happy with that image of the traffic and the Coliseum. And diving into my archives for the NYC shot and Rich on the bicycle were great finds. I’m delighted you enjoyed this one. Now, I’ll see what you came up with. I’ll write an email to you as soon as I can.


  2. Wow. This was thorough, and well thought out. You have led an interesting life, Patti. To look AHEAD to what is next is a fun thought.

    Interesting to capture the architectural styles in one photo in Rome. As yes the passing of time. I always find, as Americans, we forget most building in Europe are older than our country.

    I love the photo of the Steinway Tower. Not sure I would enjoy living on the top if it does indeed sway, but an impressive structure. And to think of the history of 9/11 and the persistence of an America that would “build again” is reflected here.

    Thank you for sharing what seems funny about Pisa’s build. I forgot there was structural renovations a few years ago. I found during our visit, it felt like a selfie station. And kept saying do people even know or care about the history, or do they just want a photo. Next time I will go very early or late. You photo is stunning.

    The Coliseum was my favorite photo. And I also loved and read every word of this interesting post.

    Liked by 1 person

    • It’s so true, Donna. We forget that we’re a young country. The building we’re staying in now was built in 1870! I am sure Pisa is now a “selfie station.” That photo was taken in the 1990’s before cell phones. Imagine that! Living without cell phones. Thanks so much for your lovely and thoughtful comments. They’re always appreciated! Have a good week!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. That’s a great story you tell here, and with such lovely photos. I like your shot of the coffee stirrer churning up the clouds. That aerial shot of Long Island I haven’t seen before; reminded me of the days when I lived there, and the miles and miles of development and strip malls that I would pass getting into the city (I did enjoy staying on the island). Wonderful photo also of the way the centuries come together in Rome.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I have been to Rome twice and I love it too — the first time I was there was by mistake. It was 1980 and I was traveling with 4 other girls — we thought we wouldn’t have time to do Rome justice so we planned on going to Pisa and then heading back to France. We jumped on the wrong train and it was an express to Rome! We had a great time in Rome but I never got to go to Pisa, so I missed seeing the tower. So I especially love your picture of Pisa, and to me, your angle makes it look like the tower is trying to peek around the basilica and get a look at the tourists! 🙂


    • Hi, Jude. I was proud of that image!! It has taken a while to get the light trails just right. It’s always an experiment! I’m so glad you enjoyed the post, too. It took a while to write, but I’m glad about the look back in time. I’m remembering when my family of 4 and then 5 lived in 750 square feet!


  5. Wonderful tour of architectural history around the world. You are so lucky to have lived in many places. I especially enjoyed your images of New York and the new tall towers. Why would anyone want to live in a building that sways in the wind?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Great question, Anne! I certainly wouldn’t!! Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts on this one. I am truly lucky. Moving is never great, but there are other rewards!! Take care and have a good week.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Hi Patti, I thoroughly enjoyed your comparisons and images. Your opening image of the coliseum is fabulous and I did imagine chariots instead of cars. And your NYC image captures the old and new of the city that I find astounding when I visit. Wishing you a year ahead filled with exciting moments like these! 🌟

    Liked by 1 person

  7. A great post, both photos and stories, Patti! Thank you for taking time to tell the history of the architecture and housing development from city to city. The first image of Rome is stunning! The New York skyline, wow… $61 million, incredible. Will they ever get use to the upper floors sway?

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m so happy you like the Rome photo. I was very happy with the way it finally came out (after many tries!). I can’t imagine spending 61 million on a home that makes me dizzy!! Have a good week!

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Your love for architecture shows in your photos and in your wonderful text, Patti. I’ve loved this post in every way. The phrase “what Romans ever did for us” came to mind a few times! Can’t pick a favourite, your post works as a whole, all so well thought and presented.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. A wonderful take on the subject Patti! I loved all your photos but perhaps especially that slow shutter speed shot of the Colosseum with passing traffic. That image alone fits the theme perfectly. It was fun to see the old photo of your husband too, as that’s exactly the image of US suburbia that I grew up with on early TV sitcoms like the Dick van Dyke Show and Bewitched 😀


  10. A great post! My husband and I also grew up on Long Island. He lived in Wantagh in a Levitt house. I grew up in Plainview. I loved your photo of the Colosseum at night! You bring so much written detail along with the images. Thanks for posting, I learned a lot!


  11. I really enjoyed your post this week and learning more about the Tower. My favorite though is the amphitheater, the other ruins in Rome and, of course, New York City. So much interesting history behind all of these images, a great read! (On another note, I do not believe the link about the Steinway Tower is complete.)


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