A plot of land, open to any possibility, then ordered by a set of intentions: the town plan. The city street pattern represents the most basic of those intentions. It’s a powerful, resilient element, one too often overlooked as we make our way through our cities and towns. The street plan represents first principles. It’s a template, arising from ideas about how to live: widths of streets, sizes of blocks and neighborhoods, green spaces, functional divisions. All these will govern daily life to a remarkable degree. In the plan resides the resonant structure of the city; its harmonics, a steady hum over which the discordant tune of city life plays. To know a city at the level of the grid and plan is to see the x-ray skeleton of a flesh and blood being.
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When I was about seven, in the days when color television wasn’t a given in every household, I was thrilled one Saturday morning to see pale colors emerging from the new tv set my parents had brought home. Cartoons would be more fun! I mentioned this to my parents, who were surprised: the new tv set was black and white. My parents quickly figured out that I was colorblind and was mistaking shades of grey for color. Still, I felt fine, and I insisted that I could see color in that set. Obviously it was my parents who had impaired vision. After all, they wore glasses.