See The Stunning Sprawl Of Mexico City’s 20 Million People, From Above

See the scope of an almost totally unplanned megacity as it grows.


More than 20 million people live in Mexico City and its sprawling suburbs–a number that’s hard to even begin to comprehend until you see images like the ones above from photographer Pablo Lopez Luz.


Lopez had been documenting the sprawling urban landscape of the city from the ground at first. “I was interested in showing the seemingly unending spread of the city towards the hillsides and still virgin landscape as an example of the overgrowth of the city, and also this particular relationship between man and space,” he says.

Image: Courtesy of Pablo Lopez Luz

But from the air, he soon realized, Mexico City is a completely different experience. “From the ground it seems like there is no end to the vast city, especially on a busy day. However, it’s only from the sky that you actually get to see what the busyness and overgrowth of Mexico City actually looks like. It’s a very strange feeling, especially if you are flying over the city by night.”

As a relentless stream of people continue to move into the area to look for new opportunities, the sea of houses continues to spread, both in informal settlements and in the giant cleared developments that Lopez shows in some of the images. Between 1970 and 2000, the surface area of the city grew 1.5 times faster than the population, and though it may have slowed slightly, it’s not stopping.

“I was born in Mexico City 34 years ago, so, from that time until today, it pretty much seems like everything has changed,” Lopez says. “It’s even more surprising to see how much it has changed in the last decade.”

For Lopez, the series is partly a way to raise questions, as he explains in this video. This is what happens when a city grows without much urban planning. Should we be doing something differently?

About the author

Adele Peters is a staff writer at Fast Company who focuses on solutions to some of the world's largest problems, from climate change to homelessness. Previously, she worked with GOOD, BioLite, and the Sustainable Products and Solutions program at UC Berkeley, and contributed to the second edition of the bestselling book "Worldchanging: A User's Guide for the 21st Century."