Rento van Drunen,  Gridcollages

Rento van Drunen’s Gridcollages on pytr75’s blog put my mind back to Albert Pope’s book, Ladders which was published in 1996. This book was very influential on my work and my thinking about urban structures and the systems that are used to put and keep them in place. In Ladders, Pope suggested that the pre war urban grid, when it was first conceived, was an open system. But the post war period saw the grid eroded and slowly replaced with centripetal design strategies. A suburban cul-de-sac or office park, are classic examples of a centripetal system – individuals have little choice but follow a curved paths instead of a straight line. The prewar city was conceived on a centrifugal grid, a road system in which the basic premise was an open spatial field that was boundless and unlimited in form because of its formal simplicity…

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  1. I have just ordered Pope’s book Ladders as a result of reading this. Thanks for reposting to this blog. This statement in particular made me think: “it is the formal organisation of the grid, the ongoing possibilities of its open system areas can be added to, dismantled, consolidated, destructed and reconstituted into an endless reconfigurations of forms, structures and plans”. I’m interested in the way in which, nowadays, the grid as “formal organization…of open system areas” can be interpreted (as in the above statement) as being more appealing to artists or tto hose representing the city, due to its seeming promise of “endless reconfigurations”. I am not sure that such a statement would hold true for past centuries, or at least not for artists’ depictions prior to the nineteenth century. When one goes back to sixteenth- and seventeenth-century Spanish thinking on grid settlements (for example Kagan’s argument about the function of grids in expressing Spanish values about community, piety and order in New World settlements), one sees that the grid is implemented within a completely different conceptual framework than that of “endless possibilities.” Seventeenth-century depictions of grid plans are not conceived due to an inherent attractiveness of grid planning, as though such a design component were always appealing apart from ideology or theoretical trends. Grid planning is a tool that permits visual expression of imperatives such as control, policia, and the growth and circulation of investment capital. I am interested in the evolution of urban planning vocabularies and concepts and the shifting frameworks in which they are applied to urban problems.

    • Interesting thoughts, I know very little about urban planning prior to the 19th century, which is when Henri Lefebvre’s perspective about planning as a bourgeois science grounded in fragmented, specialized views of knowledge kicks in. If you get a moment, what is the source for Kagan you mention?

  2. Pingback: Reconfigurations of the Urban Grid | concerturbain

  3. Here’s the Kagan reference and blurb from the Yale UP website:

    Urban Images of the Hispanic World, 1493-1793
    Richard Kagan; With the collaboration of Fernando Marias

    This engrossing book examines the particular importance of cities in Spanish and Hispanic-American culture as well as the different meanings that artists and cartographers invested in their depiction of New and Old World cities and towns.

    Kagan maintains that cities are both built structures and human communities, and that representations of the urban form reflect both points of view. He discusses the peculiar character of Spain’s “empire of towns”; the history and development of the cityscape as an independent artistic genre, both in Europe and in the Americas; the interaction between European and native mapping traditions; differences between European maps of urban America and those produced by local residents, whether native or creole; and the urban iconography of four different New World towns. Lavishly illustrated with a variety of maps, pictures, and plans, many reproduced here for the first time, this interdisciplinary study will be of interest to general readers and to specialists in art history, cartography, history, urbanism, and related fields.

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