Capturing Urban Change: Contrasts, Lapses, and Contradictions


  • Joaquin Villanueva Gustavus Adolphus College
  • Pablo Benson Long Island University
  • Martin Cobian CUNY Graduate Center



Urban Change, Urban Landscape, New York City, Contrast, Lapses, Contradictions


Is it possible to capture and analyze urban change by observing the urban landscape? If so, how does that look? We argue that there are “material clues” that pinpoint the process of urban change. The research, conducted in the summer of 2014 across New York City, entailed walking visits to neighborhoods which the researchers had no prior knowledge (South Bronx), limited knowledge (Flushing Meadows) and substantial knowledge (Williamsburg) that urban change was happening. Through photographs and field notes taken during our field trips, along with our interpretation of Don Mitchell’s (2008) reading the landscape axioms, we argue that the process of change is perceptible in the urban landscape through contrasts, lapses, and contradictions. We contend that our observational techniques can only reveal part of the process of urban change, but that this initial methodological approach could help us raise the following questions: what are the forces fostering urban change? For whom is the urban landscape changing? And for whom is urban change (in)visible? We suggest that these questions could be answered by methods that move beyond observation. Here, however, we are concerned with what observation can reveal.  

Author Biographies

Joaquin Villanueva, Gustavus Adolphus College

Assistant Professor, Department of Geography

Pablo Benson, Long Island University

Instructor, Department of Sociology and Anthropolgy

Martin Cobian, CUNY Graduate Center

Ph.D. Candidate, Anthropology Program




How to Cite

Villanueva, J., Benson, P., & Cobian, M. (2016). Capturing Urban Change: Contrasts, Lapses, and Contradictions. ACME: An International Journal for Critical Geographies, 15(3), 534–560.