Watch L.A. Fundamentally Transform In Under 1 Minute

Cities across the globe are growing in size and population at an astounding rate, and a team of researchers are looking at the past to prepare for what will happen next.

To do so, the researchers, based out of the NYU Stern School of Business, have created the Urbanization Project. Their hope is to use data visualizations (viewable below) to convince politicians to better plan for inevitable population growth.

The videos of Paris, Los Angeles, São Paulo and Chicago all chart at least 130 years of growth in less than a minute. As you can see in this GIF, even 30 years of growth changed Los Angeles in a fundamental way:

The expanding colors on the maps represent the expansion of "urban land," or land developed for residential, commercial and public use. The white space represents rural areas, forests and pastures.

Brandon Fuller, the deputy director at the Urbanization Project, described the maps as "a plea for some long-term planning" in a phone interview with The Huffington Post. Data visualizations like these, he said, have the power to help the public grasp just how quickly cities transform.

Perhaps, he continued, they can also help city politicians and planners look beyond the next election cycle when considering what infrastructure and housing to focus on.

"When you tell a policymaker that we need to start getting ready for five-fold, six-fold, seven-fold expansion in a city, they're often in disbelief," he said. "But when you can actually see how dramatically [cities grow] over time, it becomes much more real."

Who loses out when cities don't prepare for large-scale expansion? Mostly the poor, since a lack of long-term development can often result in staggering quantities of informal settlements, slums and marginalized peoples.

"If cities aren't making room for expansion, the poor are going to be at an extreme disadvantage," Fuller said.

Take a look at just how rapidly these four cities developed over the last 100-200 years:

Los Angeles:


São Paulo: