4.1.3.4. The grid model

The composition of a grid is the ‘last’ member of the linear (orthogonal) approach to urban development. It should be seen – in a quadralectic context – in conjunction with a circular approach, which ‘ends’ with the octagonal design. Both features in their concrete state are positioned in the psychological environment of the Fourth Quadrant (IV), characterized by a visible invisibility – a conceptual state of a multitude reaching into the realms where visibility is lost in uncountable quantity.

The grid type has certain features in common with the urban design based on a cross, square and/or rectilinear, like its central cross and squareness. It was mentioned before (fig. 184) that a square can be conceived as getting its shape from an initial cross (inside) or from two crossing parallel lines (outside). These differences are no longer visible in a grid, because the ‘evolution’ has taken a further step. The grid-type town or gridiron does, in itself, not reveal its genetic history, but it should be remembered that there are different approaches to its conception.

Several types of ‘grid’-town are given here in their geographical setting and connected within their position in a cultural context. The ambitious aim will be to mark the position of a gridiron (town) in the communication between a cultural unity (‘culture’) and a twenty-first century observer (who defined the boundaries of that culture).

1. The town planning in ancient Egypt did not particular favor the grid design, and most examples are worker’s dwellings related to other activities (like building the pyramids). Some examples of planned cities are Hotepsenusret (Kahun) in the Fayoum and the capital of Achnaton, the city of Akhetaten (Ch. 4.1.3.4.1).

2. The Greek ideas about regular town planning were mainly materialized in the colonies along the eastern Mediterranean and were often inspired by architects from that area (Miletus, Ionia) (Ch. 4.1.3.4.2).

3. The grid towns of the Roman agrimensores are probably the best known. These cities have been mentioned in the earlier section of the cross-design (Ch. 4.1.3.2.) and can be seen as the first step in the subsequent development towards a grid design (Ch. 4.1.3.4.3).

4. The grid cities of Europe had a long history, starting in the Celtic past. The design was appreciated in the extensive building period in the twelfth and thirteenth century all over Europe. It reached a celebrated status in the Renaissance, joining ‘classical’ ideas of (Roman) urban development with a sympathy for geometric schemes. Alberti’s book ‘De re aedificatoria’ stood on the threshold of this period and the ideas and practical application reached a stage of maturity in the seventeenth and eighteenth century, but continued in different forms into the twentieth century (Le Corbusier) (Ch. 4.1.3.4.4).

5. The ‘modern’ American grid town, also called the Jeffersonian grid cities, is a class of their own and a genuine product of the Industrial Revolution and the Westward Movement in the United States (Ch. 4.1.3.4.5).

6. Other grid cities were built by different cultures, situated in China, South America and Asia (Ch. 4.1.3.4.6).

The various geographical ‘types’ of orthogonal town building will be discussed briefly now and their historical position within a possible cultural context determined along quadralectic lines.

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