Global Urbanization and its Discontents

Over the last several decades, millions of people have migrated from rural villages and towns into urban contexts. Today, cities hold over half of the world’s population.

The growth of cities has been accompanied by an astonishing surge in land values and housing costs, driving housing prices upward and crowding out low-income residents. Our project is a multi-institution, NSF-funded collaboration investigating the spatial and temporal dynamics of property, rent, and displacement in the 20th century. We focus on a variety of world cities together with their hinterlands. This summer, we studied the process of urban sprawl in Latin America and its relation to changing patterns of land use, zoning regulations, and distressed landscapes. In the past five decades, Latin America has shifted from a predominantly rural society to the world’s most urbanized region. Using GIS and Computer Vision, we analyzed remote sensor and street level imagery of Guadalajara (Mexico), Belo Horizonte (Brazil), and Curitiba (Brazil) to understand how expanding cities contribute to urban vulnerability and produce distressed landscapes.

Global Urbanization and its Discontents is affiliated with the Spatial History Project.