Through April 15th, the Museum of the City of New York is exhibiting The Greatest Grid: The Masterplan of Manhattan.
DioGrid is a project for the competition The Greatest Grid organized by The Architectural League of New York and Museum of the City of New York in honor of the 200th anniversary of the Commissioners’ Plan of 1811 that transformed New York City into the city of endless streets and avenues we know it today, and speculations as to what the next 200 years will mean for the city. The project DioGrid was chosen to partisipate in the exhibition:
Many people think that the only direction for the development of the modern world is for it to become even more complicated, difficult and confusing. I think that only the simplification, the slowing of pace and a return to the human scale are the way to a harmonious life. New York is probably the most dynamically developed city. Huge amounts of capital and various cultural layers have passed through it, therefore it could lead the change.
The urban grid has two basic elements – the buildings and public space between them. The buildings are privately property, they are massive, and therefore they cannot be easily altered. The orthogonal street system is used successfully for thousands of years and is based on the linearity of the streets. The size of the margins between the streets is the result of the functional size of the building rather than the need for automobile streets.
At the dawn of the industrial revolution, the streets were a shared space, which incorporated with equal rights pedestrians, horses and the first cars.
At one point the cars become more powerful, more dangerous and numerous. Pedestrians retreated and all streets became automobile streets. The junctions are too many and require complex regulation and monitoring. The Industrial Revolution was based on a sterile pursuit of economic growth rather than of human values.
The car culture was born. People gradually became addicted to cars, encapsulated themselves, became antisocial and radically changed their lifestyle (home-car-office-shopping centre-car-home). The car became an extension of our body, even a sign of status. It was important to be fast, not be happy. Do we manage to experience more things during one life when we are in a hurry or does life just go by faster?
I think it is time to gradually seek new models for our public spaces. Technologies advance at a rapid rate, while the car and car traffic are frozen in the same place for many years. Every day there is a huge quantity of fuel burned to move millions of tonnes of iron, which in most cases is not necessary.
Diogrid is a proposal for a simple human parallel social and transport infrastructure.
What would happen if we evenly take away part of the automotive grid and put in its place a new parallel grid, more human and fun? In the new grid there would circulate pedestrians, cyclists and people with ultra-light electric individual mobility vehicles independent of the automotive grid. What would happen if the state allowed public space in those areas to be used by the private sector? Investors would be able to use the underground level in accordance with specific rules for parking lots, shopping centres or warehouses and would be required to manage public spaces at ground level. The lanes would be compact, and at the intersection points there would be light bridges and all of this would be in a high percentage of green area.
Two grids, two ways of life. The choice is yours…