A+U, Many Manhattans: the Past, Present, and Future Grid, 2011


“Many Manhattans: the Past, Present, and Future Grid”
11:10; #493; Manhattan Grid

Adam Yarinsky

A Visionary Framework
In 1811, The Commissioners of New York cast a net-like grid northward over the entire island of Manhattan. The grid is made of public streets separating blocks divided into parcels for private investment. Projected upon sparsely settled, undulating terrain beyond the limits of existing development, the static, two-dimensional grid bestows economic value to the land. One audacious move sets a new order, empty, replete with potential.

A Dynamic Density
As buildings rise on the blocks, the streets transform from surface to space. The grid fills to capacity. Bricks and mortar give way to towering steel frames and curtains of glass. Corridors and canyons slide between crowded buildings. Invisible sloping planes chisel into the surrounding blocks, securing light and air for the street. There emerges a ceaseless dynamic between building and space, solid and void, figure and field, context and content.

An Ecological Infrastructure
Boundaries blur in the twenty-first century city; building blocks and streets coalesce into a unified network. Pedestrians and vehicles of all kinds crowd the streets. Public space grows into and up through the buildings. Rain filters down through absorptive green layered streets. No longer passive recipients of services, buildings are nodes within utility collection and distribution systems. The grid becomes a three-dimensional matrix, channeling flows of people, energy and resources.

Once each year, on the summer solstice, the setting sun aligns with the city’s east/west streets, reconnecting New York, through its grid, to a larger order.