Non-grids

Cremona, Italy

The population of Cremona would agree that the cathedral square is their center. The most important buildings to the city are placed there, like the Romanesque cathedral, the Torrazzo, the octagonal baptistry, the city hall, and the Loggia dei Militi. The city is most famous for its musical history, being the birthplace of Claudio Monteverdi and Antonio Stradivari. It contains The School of Violin and Viola Makers and a museum of antique stringed instruments. Along with its musical influence, Cremona is also a center of agricultural and dairy produce, hosting a market weekly. It manufactures agricultural machinery, silk textiles, bricks, and pianos.

Hyderabad, India

Hyderabad, India is a Southern Indian city, founded in 1591, maintained through the years under two Islamic empires, the British empire, and now independently by the Indian government. The city is spread across 241 square miles, on an elevated terrain, and is surrounded in parts by artificial lakes. The city is unordered, and developed naturally starting from a fortress established in an older part of the city. A lot of the city order developed from individual houses and slums, but since the 2000s, due to a growing middle class, there has been investment in real-estate, leading to large apartment complexes, and gated communities, along with paving better roads by the local municipal corporation. Due to the population, narrow roads, and poor sewage systems, it’s easy to get stuck in traffic for hours, and the transit system (established in 2019) does little to help due to the population. The city is not pedestrian friendly, as sidewalks are largely absent, but due to high-density there is pedestrian traffic, and local knowledge allows people to navigate. Despite its non-grid system, locals find ways to make the disorder in city planning work, and their lives go on.

Cape Coral, FL

Cape Coral, FL

Cape Coral is a city of 200,000 in southwest Florida. The city perfectly illustrates that there is not necessarily a perfect dichotomy between “grid” and “non-grid” patterns, as the “irregular” loops, canals, and curved roads that are decidedly non-grid elements are still imposed upon a grid-like network of large thoroughfares. One thing that Cape Coral shows is that it is not the regularity or irregularity with which an area is planned that inherently leads to density and good land use. In some sense, the city mimics the urban pattern of the Islamic world, featuring minimal public space, dead-end streets around which housing is oriented, and regularity of the external appearances of dwellings. That said, this development differs from that settlement pattern by being built at a vehicular scale, meaning that much space is wasted. Perhaps the greatest oversight in the planning of Cape Coral is cross-access between multiple points. The canals segregate large parts of the city, requiring use of the hierarchical road system to navigate from one area to another, which stands in sharp contrast to other “organically” developed non-grid cities and medieval city cores. Cape Coral suggests, then, that without careful attention to road layout, artificially mimicking non-grid patterns is a poor idea.

Seoul, South Korea

Seoul, a huge metropolis of almost 10 million people, is a conglomeration of old and new neighborhoods, with some built on a grid and a majority that were not. Although Seoul is nearly 2000 years old, little of its modern facade dates back more than a few decades, as the majority of the city was developed very quickly in the decades following the Korean War. However, the layout of the streets still retain some influence from both the Joseon era and the Japanese colonial era. Around 600 of Seoul’s streets originate from the Joseon period, following the natural geography of the city’s streams and resulting in curvilinear, non-gridded streets; the process of dividing the city into districts started under Japanese rule. The new neighborhoods built after the war were a result of prioritizing speed over a uniform urban design for the city. As a result, some individual neighborhoods like Gangnam and Yeouido, were planned carefully, but the majority were not.

Dharavi, Mumbai, India

Dharavi, Mumbai in India is a locality with over 1M people over 2.1 square kilometers. It is a very high density slum, composed of migrants from within the city and rural villages seeking economic opportunity. Due to its high speed of growth and density, much of the housing and small scale factories are haphazardly arranged, making for narrow streets without an arterial road or sanitation network. This type of slum growth represents one form of the city as an organism, being designed by the thousands of residents on the ground instead of a centralized authority. Despite the lack of a grid network, houses are aligned with each other on an angular level, with large angular shifts being wasteful of space. This creates a wave-life flow of the buildings with respect to urban landmarks such as railroads and major roads.

Leiden, Netherlands

Leiden is a city in the province of South Holland, Netherlands that is an agglomeration of four suburbs. Located on the Oude Rijn delta, Leiden was formed on an artificial hill at the convergence of two rivers, the Old and New Rhine. A water town, or grachtenstad, Leiden was built on land reclaimed from bodies of water, so it has a non-uniform layout. Because the land was divided by the measure of bodies of water and joining of suburbs, the boundaries were fixed in relation to natural features and yield “organic” patterns and divisions. Specifically, the city is intersected by numerous small canals with tree-bordered quays. Like most water towns, the canal-streets were kept narrow and building blocks are long and narrow, surrounded by more canals around the area that limit expansion. Strategic fortifications for Leiden were thoughtfully planned around the city’s irregular streets, such as the circular tower castle de Burcht that was built on an earthen mound at the junction of the two rivers.

Boston, Massachussets

Founded in 1630 by Puritan settlers, Boston Massachusetts is one of the oldest cities in the United States but has established itself today as an economic and scientific stronghold. Boston is often referred to as a city of neighborhoods because of the abundance of diversely populated neighborhood districts within the city. This is largely due to most of Boston’s current land area not existing when the city was founded. Instead, it was gradually and naturally created without forming a grid and via filling in of the surrounding tidal areas. While this lack of centralized planning did cause housing issues in the 19th century and promoted the growth of slums and sprawl, the city planners of Boston have made great efforts to combat this and ultimately turned these challenges into opportunities to restructure and improve the city.

Boston, Massachusetts

Boston is an example of a non grid city that was formed because of topographic irregularities, namely its Shawmut peninsula, narrow Neck in the south and connection to rivers and ocean. There are a few neighborhoods of Boston with grid layouts, but the city is predominantly unordered. In its creation, houses were built where people wanted, resulting in a lack of organization and unplanned roads. Further, Boston was built around forestry and other natural obstacles, today resulting in an inorganically shaped city with a confusing intersection of roadways. Its streets have no direction and often wind in multiple directions.

Boston, United States

The greater Boston area expand from the Boston bay in a sprawling pattern. Due to the geography of the area, roads and highway networks spread out in a non-uniform pattern, following hills and rivers. Suburban developments followed the highway system, notably Marlborough, Framingham in the west and Quincy in the South. The sprawling developing pattern allowed residents of Boston to live in quiet suburban environment that is very much neighborhood oriented, while having access to downtown Boston via the highway system. The disadvantage is also clear, people can not get to anywhere when the highway system, namely 90 become congested.

Rabat Medina, Rabat, Morocco

The medina of Rabat is the old city originally established in the 1100s as a citadel and fortress across the river from Salé, or Slaa. It was built as a fortress from which to defend and launch attacks against Iberia. We can see this clearly in the Kasbah of the Udayas, the actual fortress just north of the medina. It’s hard to tell exactly what the town was established for beyond that–i.e., whether the intended residents were just soldiers, or also merchants and other residents. The medina looks a little bit like a grid since most of the streets are straight, but about half of the smaller streets end in dead ends. As Kostof described, the medina is divided up into sections based on general trade: the main street of the market is used for miscellaneous goods, mostly factory-made, and the sections that break off are for trades like pottery, painting, sewing, and food.

Theme: Overlay by Kaira