The Unfinished Grid:
Design Speculations for Manhattan


The Unfinished Grid:
Design Speculations for Manhattan

An exhibition of eight visionary proposals for the future of Manhattan’s street grid
Organized by the Architectural League in partnership with the Museum of the City of New York

On view at the
Museum of the City of New York
1220 Fifth Avenue
December 6, 2011–April 15, 2012

For information about visiting the Museum of the City of New York, click here.

See related programming here.

For information on the Urban Omnibus Call for Essays, and the winning entries, click here.

2011 marks the 200th anniversary of the Commissioners’ Plan for New York, the foundational document that established Manhattan’s legendary street grid. Adopted by the New York’s State Legislature in 1811, the Commissioners’ Plan laid out a network of 12 north-south avenues and 155 east-west streets that would fundamentally shape the future of New York and become an emblem of the city itself.

The Manhattan grid that is so familiar to us today, though, is a work in progress, an evolving creation that began with a bold vision by the 1811 commissioners, but which was afterwards altered and amended by generations of planners, builders, and advocates. As little room for change as there may seem, it is important to remember that Manhattan’s grid has been reimagined and reinvented many times, in large ways and small, over the past two centuries. What mark will future architects, private developers, and city officials leave on the grid? What new kinds of buildings will they build within its blocks, what new ways will they devise for organizing its streets?

To answer these questions, the Architectural League, in partnership with the Museum of the City of New York and Architizer, issued a Call for Ideas inviting architects and urban designers from around the world to speculate about how Manhattan’s grid might be adapted, extended, or transformed in the future. It asked them to consider issues such as how the grid might be modified to respond to climate change or new transportation infrastructures; how new digital technologies might affect the form and function of the buildings in which we live and work and the impact they might have on the city’s streets and public spaces; what the most pressing issues are facing the city today and into the future; and what solutions might emerge out of (and in turn modify) the street grid.

More than 120 teams from 22 countries submitted proposals in response to the Call for Ideas. A jury of architects and curators selected eight of those proposals, on display in this exhibition, as offering the most insightful and provocative ideas for Manhattan’s grid. The proposals address a range of issues, from extending Manhattan’s edge, to reconfiguring its streets, to amending preservation and zoning regulations to foster alternative possibilities for development. They are presented not as literal recommendations, but as design speculations for how we might shape the city’s future. In that sense, they celebrate a long and vibrant history in which New Yorkers imagine new possibilities for how we might live and work and then find ways for amending the grid to make them real.

The Unfinished Grid is a companion exhibition to  The Greatest Grid: The Master Plan for Manhattan, 1811-2011, a major exhibition curated by Hilary Ballon, which examines the grid’s design, implementation, and evolution over the course of two centuries.

Projects in The Unfinished Grid
(Images above, clockwise from top left)

The Informal Grid
Isaiah King, Ryan Neiheiser, Giancarlo Valle

The Plaid
Architecture Commons: Eric Ho, Rick Lam

Tabula Fluxus
Group Han Associates New York: Myung Kweon Park, Yikyu Choe, Michael Chaveriat

Flow My Tears, The Commissioners Said
GHILARDI +HELLSTEN ARKITEKTER: Franco Ghilardi, Ellen Hellsten, Espen Vatn, Erik Stenman, Einar Rodhe

6 1/4 Avenue
Ksestudio: Kyriakos Kyriakou, Sofia Krimizi, assisted byYubi Park, Jennifer Endozo, Inti Rojanasopondist and Pauline Caubel

Fotis Sagonas, Ioannis Oikonomou

Dissociative New York
Joshua Mackley, Mathew Ford

Projective Exceptions
Grant Alford, assisted by Spencer Lindstrom

The Unfinished Grid
was curated by Gregory Wessner and organized by the Architectural League and the Museum of the City of New York.

The jury for the Call for Ideas included Amale Andraos, Hilary Ballon, Rosalie Genevro, Sarah Henry, Wendy Evans Joseph, Marc Kushner, Mark Robbins, Gregory Wessner, Sarah Whiting.

Exhibition Design: Cooper/Joseph Studio
Exhibition Graphics: Thumb Projects

The Unfinished Grid was made possible by the J. Clawson Mills Fund of the Architectural League. Additional support was provided by Walter and Judy Hunt.  Media sponsorship for The Unfinished Grid was provided by Architizer.

614Avenue_web8. Flow My Tears_web7. Tabula Fluxus_web5. Dissociative New York_web3. The Plaid_web2. The Informal Grid_web1. Projective_Exceptions_web