The Vision of the Straight Line and The Grid

From 'The Story of the Original CMK'

Stuart Mosscrop’s explanation of the design entranced me: ‘The straight line is the only distinctive mark that man can make on the face of the earth. Nature can make any other kind of shape but it can’t make a perfectly straight line.’ So, if you are doing a major piece of urban development, in this case the iconic Centre on a plateau in the middle of a city of 1/4 million people, you have to decide what kind of make you’ll make on the ground and one consideration is the only mark a man can make – a straight line…

There’s an intellectual argument about straight lines. There’s a philosophical and political perspective about grids and straight lines too – that the equal subdivision of land is a very democratic thing. Historically, in our country, places have grown and shown the pattern of ownership, of aristocracy, poor people, rich people, the accidents of time and class and wealth, as well as economics and geography. We end up with a very interesting, complicated framework usually with spokes of a wheel – the town centre in the middle and the spokes as the main arterial roads… If you’re carving up a flat piece of land…where there are no Barons or Earls, but this is publicly-owned land being sub-divided for development for the community benefit – that‘s the context. Its sub-division into equal allotments is a very important democratic principle. You say, I’ve got straight lines, I’ve got a grid and I’ve got demographic subdivision too.

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