Paris is a bloodshot eyeball, São Paulo spreads out like a watercolor, and L.A. is a glorious mess. You can see how three very different metropolises expand and sprawl in these gorgeous animations produced as part of NYU's Stern Urbanization Project, examining the growth of cities.
The quintessential Old World city, Paris is a tiny round cigarette burn on the landscape that grows slowly, yet hardly ever wavers from its almost perfectly symmetrical circular shape. The subways and grand boulevards extend the city outward, though it stays nice and compact right up until the sprawl of the late 1900s.
The Brazilian city starts out like Paris in colonial times, then it breaks free of the European street plan like an unpredictable ink blot after the introduction of cars and transit. The biggest boom occurs in the 1960s as the city becomes a megalopolis, consuming the region.
And, finally, the city with one of the weirdest growth patterns of all (and that's probably why they chose it). Young L.A. uses all the tricks in the book, first building a dense city center downtown—but then, oh wait, there's another city center over there! And another over there! You can also watch how the early rail system expands the city along its corridors, then the freeways draw a completely different pattern of growth. [Urbanization Project]