The First Art Newspaper on the Net Established in 1996 United States Friday, October 31, 2014


"The Greatest Grid: The Master Plan of Manhattan, 1811-2011" celebrates bicentennial of audacious plan
Fifteen shacks on Fifth Avenue and 101st Street, 1894. Museum of the City of New York, X2010.11.4959.
NEW YORK, N.Y.- The first comprehensive exhibition to trace one of the most defining achievements in New York City’s history—the breathtaking vision, planning, and implementation of Manhattan’s iconic grid system—is now on view at the Museum of the City of New York. The Greatest Grid: The Master Plan of Manhattan, 1811—2011, on view through April 15, 2012, documents the development of the “Commissioners’ Plan,” which in 1811 specified numbered streets and avenues outlining equal rectangular blocks ranging from (today’s) Houston Street to 155th Street and from First Avenue to Twelfth Avenue. The exhibition, which is organized on the occasion of the bicentennial of the plan, elucidates, through remarkable maps, photographs, and other historic documents, this monumental infrastructure project—the city’s first such civic endeavor—which transformed New York throughout the 19th century and laid the foundation for its distinctive character. Some 225 artifacts are on view in the exhibition, which is organized chronologically and geographically, leading visitors from 17th-century, pre-grid New York through the planning process and the explicit 1811 Commissioners’ Plan, and from the massive and elaborate implementation of the plan to contemporary reflections on New York and visions for its future.

Commented Susan Henshaw Jones, the Ronay Menschel Director of the Museum: “The 1811 grid was a bold expression of optimism and ambition. City commissioners anticipated New York’s propulsive growth and projected that the city—still relatively small at the time and concentrated in what is now Lower Manhattan and Greenwich Village—would extend to the heights of Harlem. The 1811 plan has demonstrated remarkable longevity as well as the flexibility to adapt to two centuries of unforeseeable change, including modifications such as Broadway and Central Park. The real miracle of the plan was that it was enforced.”

Highlights of the exhibition are ten hand-colored maps by John Randel, Jr. (1787-1865), the surveyor, cartographer, and civil engineer who surveyed the island for the grid and created the official 1811 Commissioners’ Plan. Beautiful and utilitarian, the maps—called the Randel Farm Maps—are among the most important records of early New York, and they have never before been exhibited as a group. On loan from the Manhattan Borough President’s Office, they dramatize the radical reorganization of the city that the grid required, and their presentation enables visitors to compare the irregular topography of the city with the grid. The scale of these maps—100 feet to 1 inch—appears to be unique and rare among maps of other American cities.

Other rare and exquisitely detailed maps dating from 1776 to the present are on view, alongside stunning archival photographs portraying the island of Manhattan throughout various stages of excavation. An extraordinary street-by-street explanation of the plan in the words of the commissioners—Gouverneur Morris, Simeon De Witt, and John Rutherfurd—are on view as are other historic documents, plans, prints, and more.

The Greatest Grid is co-sponsored by the Manhattan Borough President’s Office.

The exhibition is accompanied by a companion book of the same title, co-published by the Museum of the City of New York and Columbia University Press. Dr. Hilary Ballon, University Professor of Urban Studies & Architecture at the Robert F. Wagner Graduate School of Public Service at New York University, conceived of the exhibition, is its curator, and is the editor of the companion book.

A related exhibition, on view concurrently at the Museum, features the results of a competition in which architects and planners were asked for submissions using the Manhattan street grid as a catalyst for thinking about the present and future of New York; this exhibition is co-sponsored by the Architectural League of New York.

The Greatest Grid: Synopsis of the Exhibition
The Greatest Grid: The Master Plan of Manhattan, 1811—2011 traces Manhattan’s evolution from once-bucolic origins (depicted in a 1763 print portraying abundant greenery, soft rolling hills, and streams) to the densely built and populated metropolis it is today. The original and authoritative Commissioners’ Plan—lines on paper—reveals the conceptual vision that would become one of the world’s greatest cities. 19th-century photographs on view reveal flat expanses, excavations, rock outcroppings, and other features—natural and man-made—as road-building progressed and, in the words of Clement Clarke Moore, one of the city’s first real estate developers, “the surface of the earth [was reduced] as nearly as possible to a dead level.”

The exhibition documents the work of many illustrious figures, most notably, John Randel, Jr., who measured the grid with obsessive care. Randel was an apprentice to Simeon DeWitt, the surveyor general of New York State from 1784 to 1834. Between 1808 and 1810 Randel measured the lines of streets and avenues at right angles to each other, and recorded distances and details about the island, its features, and its inhabitants. This resulted in a manuscript map of the grid plan, which he completed by March 1811. Randel continued surveying the island from 1811 to 1817, setting marble monuments (one of which is on view in the exhibition; there were to have been 1,800) to mark the intersections of the coming grid. Between 1818 and 1820 Randel drafted a series of 91 large-scale maps of the island, now known as the Randel Farm Maps (ten of which are on view). An article written in the 1850s cited Randel as “one of our most accurate engineers,” further stating that his survey of New York City was done “with such a mathematical exactness as to defy an error of half an inch in ten miles.”

The commissioners’ detailed notes about the grid are also on view in the exhibition, explaining the plan and expressing their intent to “lay out streets, roads, and public squares, of such width, extent, and direction, as to them shall seem most conducive to public good...” (From “An Act relative to Improvements, touching the laying out of Streets and roads in the City of New-York, and for other purposes. Passed April 3, 1807.”)

Other colorful figures are highlighted, including William M. “Boss” Tweed, who implemented high-quality improvements, advanced services, and pushed forward many amenities while at the same time benefitting his associates.

The merits of the grid are debated. Historians have viewed it as the emblem of democracy, with blocks that are equal and no inherently privileged sites. Historians have also praised its utility, its neat subdivisions that support real estate development. The rectangular lots of Manhattan’s grid parallel Thomas Jefferson’s national survey, which organized land sales in square-mile townships. The grid manifests Cartesian ideals of order, with streets and avenues that are numbered rather than named for trees, people, or places. Frederick Law Olmsted bemoaned its dumb utility and lack of monuments and other features. Jane Jacobs credited city streets with creating New York’s public realm. And Rem Koolhaas called the grid “the most courageous act of prediction in Western civilization: the land it divides, unoccupied; the population it describes, conjectural; the buildings it locates, phantoms; the activities it frames, nonexistent.”

The Greatest Grid reframes ideas about New York, revealing the plan to be much more than a layout of streets and avenues. The grid provides a framework that balanced public order with private initiative. It predetermined the placement of the city’s infrastructure, including transportation services, the delivery of electricity and water, and most other interactions. Manhattan’s grid has provided a remarkably flexible framework for growth and change.

Visitors have the opportunity to consider New York’s preparation for the future and whether or not the grid will enable the city to face 21st-century challenges. New proposals for the city, the results of a competition, are on view in a separate, related exhibition co-sponsored by the Architectural League. The Greatest Grid also features “12 x 155,” a conceptual art video by artist Neil Goldberg along with other artistic responses, such as original drawings from the graphic novel City of Glass (Picador, 2004) by Paul Auster, illustrated by Paul Karasik and David Mazzucchelli.





Today's News

January 6, 2012

Woman damages painting worth more than $30M at Denver's new Clyfford Still Museum

Christie's January sale "The Art of France" celebrates 18th century French paintings

Pablo Picasso painting of Notre-Dame to highlight Bonhams Impressionist & Modern Art auction

Rare and rediscovered paintings lead Christie's Old Master paintings and drawings sales

Time cloak created: How an art thief can walk into a museum and steal a painting

New Hampshire dealer selling 1878 Alexander Graham Bell note with phone sketch

Photojournalist Eve Arnold, first woman admitted into Magnum agency, dies at 99

Georgia Museum of Art announces receipt of collection of American art by African American artists

PBS announces new reality competition show from the producers of Antiques Roadshow

Creative Spirit: Outstanding examples of the Art of David C. Driskell at DC Moore Gallery

Bertoia's to auction the Richard T. Claus Collection of nautical toys and boats in May

"The Greatest Grid: The Master Plan of Manhattan, 1811-2011" celebrates bicentennial of audacious plan

Peter Liversidge's new exhibition "Where We Begin" at the Sean Kelly Gallery in New York

2012 Drawing Prize of the Daniel & Florence Guerlain Contemporary Art Foundation

Titian's Diana and Actaeon goes on tour

Klemens Gasser & Tanja Grunert present Zefrey Throwell Ocularpation: Wall Street

Forum Gallery presents Out of Sight: Imaginary Landscapes by Tula Telfair

Furor after New Jersey hometown removes Landon plaque

Bonnie and Clyde guns to be auctioned in Missouri

Most Popular Last Seven Days



1.- Image of a Christ without a beard, short hair and wearing a toga unearthed in Spain

2.- Giant mosaic unearthed in mysterious tomb in Amphipolis in northern Macedonia

3.- Bonhams sale of 18th century French decorative arts to benefit Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco

4.- Paris flustered by erection of 'sex-toy' sculpture; Paul McCarthy slapped by a passer-by

5.- High art or vile pornography? Marquis de Sade explored in Orsay museum exhibition

6.- 'Cubism: The Leonard A. Lauder Collection' opens at the Metropolitan Museum of Art

7.- Greek culture minister says Elgin Marbles return a matter of 'global heritage'

8.- Vandals deflate Paris 'sex-toy' sculpture by American artist Paul McCarthy after outrage

9.- Exhibition at National Gallery in London explores Rembrandt's final years of painting

10.- 'Hans Memling: A Flemish Renaissance' opens at the Scuderie del Quirinale in Rome



Museums, Exhibits, Artists, Milestones, Digital Art, Architecture, Photography,
Photographers, Special Photos, Special Reports, Featured Stories, Auctions, Art Fairs,
Anecdotes, Art Quiz, Education, Mythology, 3D Images, Last Week, .

 

Founder:
Ignacio Villarreal
Editor & Publisher: Jose Villarreal - Consultant: Ignacio Villarreal Jr.
Art Director: Juan José Sepúlveda Ramírez - Marketing: Carla Gutiérrez
Special Contributor: Liz Gangemi - Special Advisor: Carlos Amador
Contributing Editor: Carolina Farias

Royalville Communications, Inc
produces:

ignaciovillarreal.org theavemaria.org juncodelavega.org facundocabral-elfinal.org
Founder's Site. The most varied versions
of this beautiful prayer.
Hommage
to a Mexican poet.
Hommage
       

The First Art Newspaper on the Net. The Best Versions Of Ave Maria Song Junco de la Vega Site Ignacio Villarreal Site