The Greatest Grid


Modern Reforms, 20th Century—Now

Manhattan Monumentality

Frederick Law Olmsted, the designer of Central Park and the grid’s most influential critic in the 19th century, faulted its uniformity and failure to accommodate monumental buildings. “There are numerous structures, both public and private, in London and Paris, and most other large towns of Europe, which could not be built in New York, for want of a site of suitable extent and proportions. Read More There is no place under the system in New York where a stately building can be looked up to from base to turret, none where it can even be seen full in the face and all at once taken in by the eye; none where it can be viewed in advantageous perspective.” Olmsted could not have foreseen that as the city evolved, it would develop its own form of monumentality.

Manhattan’s defining 20th-century monumentality was based on three elements: the street wall, extreme height, and the endless vista along the grid’s long streets and avenues. Show Less