Sprawl in the Postwar Boom Years
After World War II, the American experience and the European experience diverged for a brief period, with sprawl much more visible in the United States than in Europe. There were several reasons for this. One was that the desperate need for immediate rebuilding in European cities after World War II led to major public interventions in the development process. This, in turn, gave public planners the opportunity to exercise a great deal of new authority. In many countries, a planning elite could implement ideas about reshaping the city and its hinterlands that they had been advocating, largely in vain, for decades.
The other, and probably more important, reason for the divergence in urban development patterns between the United States and Europe was the simple fact of numbers of people and degree of affluence. Many of the European countries had been decimated by the war, and many of the largest cities grew slowly, if at all. While a few major metropolitan areas, for example, the Paris region, grew substantially from 1940 to 1970, many other cities such as Hamburg, Berlin, Vienna, Glasgow, and Birmingham saw their populations remain stable or even decline.1 In the United States, on the other hand, basking in postwar prosperity and experiencing a prodigious baby boom, the population jumped from 150 million people to over 200 million people in the first two full decades after the war. The population gains of some individual cities were faster still. The figures for the Los Angeles urban area, for example, more than doubled in these two decades, jumping from under 4 million to over 8 million. The