A digital design class at Columbia University has led to some provocative questions about New York City. The below work by Charles-Antoine Perrault destabilizes our conception of Manhattan, which we so strongly associate with the street grid. But what if the early city planners had envisioned a city with the grand boulevards of Paris? It happened in Washington D.C. and Detroit, so why not New York?
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This “photograph” also shows that Central Park is enough of an identifier (along with the Manhattan Google Maps bubble of course), to retain our sense of geolocation. Charles-Antoine is from Paris, and in his homage to two great cities he says, “I covered Manhattan with Paris Left Bank streets. You might recognise Gare Montparnasse on the right and the Invalides in the top left corner. Pretty fun to imagine New Yorkers lost in Manhattan without their grid!” Fellow student Alex Wallach then took the concept and superimposed Paris onto the famous 1807 Commisioners’ street grid plan.
And in another piece, Alex takes an 1859 rendering of Central Park with the perspective stretching out into the hinterland of New York and New Jersey and superimposes the Manhattan of today. It demonstrates not only man’s domination of nature, but also visually conveys the foresight of the New York City Board of Commissioners. By anticipating the rapid urbanization of New York and planning to save open space, they benefited the many generations since and the ones to come. I bet in the fancy speak of that era, they would have said they were doing it “for posterity,” and they were right!
For more fun with Google Maps, check out the hidden Bushwick airplane article from Untapped that started it all…