Planning To Make New York A Beautiful City

New York City recently celebrated the 200th anniversary of the gridded street system. The Times has put together an interactive map where you can compare the original plan with the final outcome.

I bring it up because in this article — which is mainly about an art exhibit at the Municipal Art Society in which various artists share their vision for a beautified New York — the grid system is not hailed as such a great idea:

[T]here is not a city in Europe laid out on the rectangular plan like New York that has not had to change it sooner or later… Have you ever stopped to think how much time we lose by going straight up and then straight across.. and perpetually rushing around right angles?

It always takes five or ten or fifteen minutes longer to get from one great centre of the city to another than it should. Persons of a statistical turn of mind may calculate that if five million persons lose ten minutes a day in this way it makes fifty million minutes, or nearly a million hours, and so on.

Nobody denies the necessity for more and diagonal avenues. The objection has always been based on expense. It does seem a considerable undertaking to buy up land enough for a new avenue and tear down houses and lay a street, but other municipalities have met the same problem and settled it.

For such a celebrated street system, I was surprised to see that the Municipal Art Society concludes “New York is very badly planned, indeed, but… things are going to be changed, and just as soon as they are the artists can be trusted to see to it that beauty is not forgotten.”

PLANNING TO MAKE NEW YORK A BEAUTIFUL CITY: Municipal Art Society Assembles in an Exhibition Many Suggestions for Doing Away with Ugliness and Increasing the Beauty of the Town. (PDF)

From April 16, 1911

One response to “Planning To Make New York A Beautiful City”

  1. Been following since I recently discovered you, and plan to do a blog post about your site soon, lifting a few examples for my readers to get a taste and want more. I will send you the post when I get to it. This is such an innovative and brilliant idea you have mounted, Congratulations.


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