Practical Town Planning, Urban Art, and Geography: The Grid Specialized

GRID 2020 Abstracts

Practical Town Planning, Urban Art, and Geography:
The Grid Specialized

Prof. Renato Leão Rego
Department of Architecture and Urbanism, State University of Maringá, Brazil

Session II: Gridded Plans and Architectures
Monday, November 23, 2020 | 12:00-13:00 (Duet A)

The orthogonality that characterizes the layout of so many cities worldwide conveys both a means to create order and a simple planning formula. It has been generally assumed that a city whose streets, blocks and buildings are arranged in a regular, systematic way will have order. Also, the grid has been deemed an instinctive tool for creating new towns, for no other parcelling scheme seems so easy to outline, or yields uniform plots straightforwardly describable in deeds. In fact, from the commercial point of view the advantage of this urban pattern is clear: it offers none of the problems that irregular plots and curved perimeters present to planners, who can easily calculate the area of standardized, orthogonal shapes. However, the grid has been criticized for a calculated indifference to the natural setting, and has been taken as the physical equivalent to the laissez-faire economy: the perfect plan for the capitalist city, generating urban forms strong in private spaces, but weak in public ones. Moreover, this principle of order, regularity, simplicity and practicality can become rigid and lack interest if mechanically applied. For the grid is neutral, non-hierarchical, and will appear monotonous until be infused with special content, thus gaining individuality, hierarchy, attractiveness and aesthetic appeal. Referring to a series of Brazilian case studies, this paper presents new-town layouts in which the grid was adopted as the basic component. Early twentieth-century layouts authored by civil engineers aware of natural features and urban beauty are considered, as well as rationalist architects’ mid-century designs. Relating to the ‘city beautiful’ idea, the ‘functional city’ notion and the formulation of open grid, the paper explores how environmental thinking and artistic compositions helped to specialize the otherwise indistinct gridiron town layout and produce compelling townscapes.



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