Grids

Beijing, China

The city design within the Beijing city wall follows a grid pattern. The horizontal running road (Chang An road) and the vertical positioned Forbidden palace forms natural separations between the four quadrants of Beijing. Within each quadrant, roads run along the city gates, further dividing each quadrant into grids. The design of households in Beijing also contributed to the grid pattern in Beijing. Houses in Beijing are typically in rectangular or square forms, this also contributes to the networks of grids. However, roads between houses and neighborhood are typically narrow and irregular, in order to compensate for the different sizes of houses in the area. This makes it easier to getting disoriented in Beijing.

Priene, Ancient Greece

Priene is an Ancient Greek city. It is believed to be the pinnacle of the Greek grid city planning. Its closed-grid structure reveals main the ideals of the Greek grid, which became a popular tool in founding colonies. Firstly, as victorious Greeks brought democracy to the conquered lands, they established towns with lots of equal sizes: Priene consisted of bigger public spaces and 80 equal blocks with 5 private houses each. Secondly, Greeks were focused on occupying strategically important locations that provided good viewability and protection: Priene was built on the slope of the Mycale mountain and overviewed a port of the Aegean Sea. The combination of the steep slope and the gridiron plan provided great visibility of the port and the city itself.

Phoenix, Arizona

Phoenix, Arizona, founded in 1867 by farmers, is contained within a grid structure on flat terrain. Each main road in Phoenix is spaced out by one mile, adjusting for curvature of the Earth. North-south streets are numbered, east-west streets are named, and ‘Central Avenue’ equally divides the North and South parts of the city. Unlike Calthorpe’s ideas for grid design, Phoenix is a largely auto-dependent city as large parts of Phoenix are not accessible by transit, and is also, despite its sunny weather allowing solar panels, a city that is behind on sustainability, and has a shrinking fresh water supply. As Phoenix expands, sustainability and urban sprawl remain problems, and the grid system despite its logical separation, isn’t adaptable enough to fix its problems.

Lima, Peru

Lima, Peru

The capital of Peru and the largest city in the country by far, Lima has seen over 500 years of urbanization built off of the original Spanish colonial pattern. Lima’s original nine squares can be seen abutting the Rimac river, featuring all the standard attributes of a Spanish colonial town plan. But the latest satellite imagery shows that this grid hasn’t been extended perfectly, there’s substantial grid deformation as one gets farther from the original center. This is an excellent example of a grid, featuring planned regularity and some organic attributes to keep it interesting. Moreover, while access to the “center” isn’t as easily achieved as in say Chicago, the center of the city has sort of grown in size to match the needs of the local residents, distributing function rather than relocating, which adds to the coherence of the grid.

Sacramento, United States

Sacramento’s central grid was first planned in the mid-1800s, shortly after the first discoveries of gold. Anticipating that Sacramento would become a huge source of revenue, John Sutter, Jr. asked his planners to develop the city on a grid so that he could organize his land and economic holdings as simply as possible. As such, Sacramento’s central grid was not planned to further any particular conception of the ideal city, but solely for Sutter’s own speculative goals.

Image Source: Google Earth, Library of Congress (https://www.loc.gov/item/2018588053/)

New Haven, Connecticut

New Haven, Connecticut, founded by the English Puritans, was laid in a grid known as the Nine Square Plan – eight squares of 25 acres each arranged around an open public marketplace at its center. The central square forms a dual cross axis of streets defining the edge of the square, with perimeter streets in a 4×4 layout. New Haven’s model was unique among the New England colonies, having been inspired by the orderly, contained aspects of ancient Greek and Roman military camps. The increase in automobile traffic and suburban growth led to street extension, grid deformation, and block manipulation, which gave rise to an orthoradial grid. New Haven was a good attempt at a planned grid city, but it grew in a way that lost the intended right square grid design.

La Plata, Argentina

La Plata is the capital of the Buenos Aires province in Argentina. It is a planned city founded in 1882 and designed by Pedro Benoit to a rationalist design. Notably in Argentina, it strayed from the Law of Indies, posing a modern, secular attitude (Benoit was also a Freemason).

The square city is fractally designed, and is divided into a 6×6 grid of square megablocks, each with a 6×6 grid of square blocks. Additionally, two major diagonals cross through the square city, and additional diagonals boxing the inner 2×2 megablocks in another square. Each intersection of major streets features a park (not churches), although few look suitable for organized sport/playgrounds. It has an ortho-radial grid, with “implict” block subdivision from the diagonal streets, and grid deformation on the outskirts with street extensions. Finally, a ring road surrounds the city for a degree of discrete separation.

Evidently, the city is precisely and intentionally designed, with the grandeur of a planned capital, and it is known for being pedestrian friendly (as one could suspect from the external-facing, dense nature of the buildings). Interestingly, however, the blocks themselves are very heterogenous, with unordered jumbles of buildings, some with an inner courtyard that is only accessible through building back entrances. This is in contrast to Brasilia, designed later, and catering towards the automobile.

San Francisco, CA

A closed grid plan by physical nature, San Francisco was imposed on a city of hills built on the end of a peninsula, the topographic features limiting opportunities for expansion. The city had a small area, but the grid pattern of the streets and the hills divided the cities into separate portions and valleys. In 1839, Jean-Jacques Vioget, a Swiss-born engineer, planned a grid map following typical Spanish patterns with 12 blocks and a central plaza. Today, this plan lies in the Financial District near Montgomery Street and Montgomery Street. With the increasing flux of residents due to the Gold Rush, San Francisco had trouble balancing density and accessibility. To address these concerns, San Francisco’s block plans were laid out orthogonally the public transportation system was implemented in cable cars, to reduce the commute time for people and make navigation and orientation a lot easier.

Philadelphia, Pennslyvania

Philadelphia is one of the first grid cities implemented in the US, paving the way for other grid cities to emerge. It has “axial avenues and straight-forward grid” (Grant 226), and when created was formed to have the grid covering a limited area, with the outside land being clearly defined. All of the quadrants in the city were originally designed with a common center space which today are now famous garden squares. Philadelphia today continues to be driven by this grid system, with even streets named in methodical ways to make living easier. In this case, the grid system proved very adaptable to the city.

Eixample, Barcelona

The Eixample is a district within the city of Barcelona. It was designed by Catalonian urban planner lldefons Cerda and is characterized by its long streets and a grid pattern intersected by wide avenues that allow for increased visibility and ventilation. This gives The Eixample an increased sense of “openness”— which is unique among other grid patterns. The Eixample was planned to incorporate the needs of its residents and its design called for schools and commercial areas such as markets to be situated every few blocks— many of which still exist in the same locations today. While the Eixample in recent years has become crowded and loud— it remains one of the most popular areas of Barcelona and The Eixample’s basic design has proven to be incredibly adaptable to a modern environment.

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