Unless you were born and bred on the streets of Manhattan and you haven’t left the city yet, you will have noticed just how suspiciously linear the roads are. Compare them to the intricate, ancient streets of Rome or even the less easily maneuverable streets of central Boston and you’ll see that they’re as straight as can be! This becomes especially obvious if you simplify the maps, just delineating the streets. Check out the pictures below!
Geoff Boeing, a Ph.D. candidate in urban planning at UC Berkeley, put together a collection of monochrome representations of some of the world’s most iconic cities, each of which showing a square mile of the city in question. They allow you to compare the layout of the streets, all of which can be explained by a bit of historical and architectural exploration. Like for example, why does Broadway just slice through town with no cares given? Turns out it follows a Wickquasgeck Trail, which was carved into the brush of Manhattan by its Native American inhabitants, prior to European settlement.
In the four cities above, there is a wealth of information that can be interpreted from the images. Take the top row, where you can note the late 19th-century angular grids of Portland, Oregon and San Francisco, California. In the bottom row, the business park in suburban Irvine, California is depicted. Boeing notes that its large, modernist, auto-centric layout is representative of American urbanization in the latter half of the 20th century. This, of course, lies in complete contrast to Rome, whose millennia-old, complex – but organic – form evolved over a long time of self-organization and urban planning.
Nobody in Osaka expected the arrival of a motorized vehicle, did they? Look at those compact streets! I bet their cab drivers are cursing… Well, they do here too. Must be something innate.
Featured image: Justin Brown