The Unfinished Grid

Design Speculations for Manhattan

“If it should be asked why was the present plan adopted in preference to any other, the answer is, because after taking all circumstances into consideration, it appeared to be the best…” Gouverneur Morris, Simeon DeWitt, John Rutherfurd, “Remarks of the Commissioners for Laying Out Streets and Roads in the City of New York, Under the Act of April 3, 1807”

In 2011, New York City marked the 200th anniversary of the Commissioners’ Plan for New York, the foundational document that created Manhattan’s legendary street grid. In celebration of this important milestone, the Museum of the City of New York, the New York Public Library, and The Architectural League co-presented a pair of exhibitions that looked at the past and future of Manhattan’s street plan. The Greatest Grid: The Master Plan of Manhattan 1811-2011, curated by Hilary Ballon, was a landmark exhibition that explored the creation, implementation, and evolution of the grid through its first two hundred years. A companion exhibition, The Unfinished Grid: Design Speculations for Manhattan, co-organized by the League with the Museum of the City of New York, presented the eight winning entries in an international Call for Ideas that invited architects and urban designers to use the grid as a springboard for thinking about the city’s future.

This publication documents the winning projects featured in The Unfinished Grid, as well as a cross-section of submissions to the Call for Ideas. The projects are bold, ambitious, and full of energy to rethink New York for a new century, proposing ideas that range from reclaiming streets for expanded pedestrian use, to inserting new sites for urban agriculture and food production, to softening Manhattan’s edges to respond to and mitigate sea level rise. Together, they attest to Manhattan’s enduring power as architectural and urban muse.

Projects by /|<|| (Giancarlo Valle, Isaiah King, Ryan Neiheiser); Architecture Commons (Eric Ho, Rick Lam); Ksestudio (Kyriakos Kyriakou, Sofia Krimizi); Grant Alford; Joshua Mackley and Mathew Ford; Fotis Sagonas and Ioannis Oikonomou; Group Han Associates New York (Myung Kweon Park, Yikyu Choe, Michael Chaveriat); and Ghilardi + Hellsten Arkitekter (Franco Ghilardi, Ellen Hellsten, Espen Vatn, Erik Stenman, Einar Rodhe)