Manhattan, New York City

Manhattan’s grid pattern was a response to the population growth between 1790 and 1810. Public health issues increased as a result so some action was needed. It focused on the downtown areas because most of the city’s population lived there. Its main goal was to be structured but flexible. It took about 60 years for the grid to be built up to 155th street, during which many factors (administration, aesthetic values, interest groups) changed and could have undermined the plan. It caused a debate among New Yorkers (property owners in particular). More than 720 buildings were demolished or moved, which caused the city to lose most of its original architectural history.

Nouakchott, Mauritania

Nouakchott is the capital of Mauritania, which between its construction in 1955 and the present has grown from 15,000 inhabitants to roughly 2 million.  Designed by French administrators, Nouakchott’s grid embodies many of the principles of their colonial utility in a pre-capitalist setting.  Population growth brought on by desertification saw planning of new districts favor the order this creates, both on a pure functional and political level.  As the city continues to deal with rapid growth, slavery, terrorism, and autocracy, this layout seems to both exacerbate and control issues – while clearly embodying the repressive hierarchy of the society it serves.

Kentlands, MD

As mentioned in Jill Grant’s article, Kentlands, MD was built in 1988 under the rubric of New Urbanism. Grant describes it as one of the towns that was built on a modified grid that was supposed to diffuse authority. It was developed outside of a major downtown area (D.C.) to be a planned neighborhood for mixed income levels, which is typical of a suburb, but it also contains more multi-family buildings than many suburbs. Project Reference File’s case study of Kentlands reports: “The system is made up of main streets, which are boulevards with parking as well as trees on both sides; primary streets, with parking and trees on both sides; and secondary streets, with parking on one side and trees on the other. There are no culs-de-sac.” There are also small parks throughout the city, and small, artificial lakes. In the northwest corner are grocery stores, and the main street contains live-work buildings along with other commercial businesses.

Aigues-Mortes, France

Aigues-Mortes, located in the Occitanie administrative region of France, is a medieval bastide town. It was designed with a grid pattern inspired by a feature of the Roman system — a castrum. There are two principal roads, one running from the south to the north and one running from the east to the west, that intersect at a central square, borrowing from, as Busquets, Keller, and Yang note, the logic of a military camp. The grid pattern here can be read as closed and pre-capitalist in Marcuse’s sense: its medieval walls, which are preserved, place a physical limit on its extent. Today, because the medieval walls were preserved, the spatial pattern within the walls is discontinuous from the spatial pattern beyond it.


The iconic octagonal grid of L’Eixample was motivated by industrial era urban-inflow and the rising nationalism of the city’s elites, who hoped to build a suitable capital for the Catalan region. The grid’s chamfered corners open up sightlines and provide community space around intersections, giving L’Eixample an airiness not found in standard gridirons.

La Plata, Argentina

La Plata, founded in 1882, is one of the last examples of a city designed (loosely) according to the Law of the Indies, which established a simple, orderly model for new developments in Spain’s colonial holdings. The goal was order, rationality, centrality, and legibility. Gridded streets centered around a church and other governmental buildings, all surrounded by agricultural land (ejido).

New Orleans

New Orleans features a grid pattern that adjusts to the contours of the Mississippi River. The city has retained elements of French urban planning (public squares, wide boulevards, French architecture) that connect it to its French roots.

Theme: Overlay by Kaira