Capitalism main city was born in a natural harbor, a proper place for commerce in industrial era. Dutch and British stablished here their base point between the old and the new world. Mannahatta, the original peninsula home of natives, became a big node of the industrial activity.
The first settlements occupied the southern edge and as the urban space began to grow up to the north there came the plan of how to organize this growth. Pragmatism was settled by the Dutch and encouraged by the British. The orthogonal grid soon appeared as the more practical structure. As the social base was made of commerce, the grid became the best way to avoid hierarchy. No main points or axis as in an European city, instead of that a perfect grid. The streets connect East and West coasts with their piers and the Avenues connect the southern downtown with the rest of the country through the new land ready to build on. Urbanism of mobility was born this way, where the public space is dominated by roads, with less space for walk or encounter, although when these pedestrian spaces are few, some of them can be very refined.
Nowadays Manhattan shows us a grid that structures a chaos of contrasts. Each box of this grid can asume diverse aspects. As the pixels in a digital screen, each plot has its own personality. In many cases they fight in competition with their neighbors in terms of height, shape or the materials of the skin.
As Rem Koolhaas said, urban congestion made the buildings get more and more complex inside. The skyscrapers grew containing dwellings, comercial and leisure areas in the same building, and all of this keeping an uniform exterior look, without expressing the interior diversity.
Public entities take a small role in the public space development. Many private entities, most of them owners of the building, keep their sidewalks updated. Other streets show a just functional state but with an improvable potential. Here another contrast comes, from a standard poured concrete sidewalk then appears the great limestone pieces that round the church at the fifth avenue.
On the other hand, the collective is very present in the mind, all the citizens are the police. Anyone must warn about risks in construction.
And with these industrial origins, the infrastructure system is great and powerful. The bridges that join the island with the oposite coasts, the tunnels, the train and bus stations, they all have a scale in relation to the population of this big city and the traffic that goes through.
This industrial origin is also a point from where a new life can start. One good example, the new pedestrian green park elevated over the street, made with the transformation of an old train line, and with the first support of the neighbors, the Hig Line Park.
In this industrial-urban scale we find the public steam system. This well known character in many films is a system with origin in 1882, brings energy to the buildings in an efficient way for the city itself.
The content of this structure, the social group that is attached to each city, is here in NY specific. Quoting our friend Luis (1): The average age of the people in NYC is 30 years. There are no kids and no elderly people.
Yes, they don't fit in the high productivity society. A great rate in the total population is formed by young people that stay here a phase of their lives, when a great energy pushes the individual force.
This young population lives in the cafes where books can be looked, (without the typical porcelain hits that the european cafes). The throwaway cups don't sound, they are made for take away life, drink while walking, eating in the underground or send an email from a park where a jazz band plays. It is true, this city never sleeps.
-(1). Luis Martínez Gil, molecular biologist at Mount Sinai Hospital, department of Microbiology Virology.
-Mannahatta Project. http://welikia.org
-Delirious New York Rem Koolhaas. Ed. Gustavo Gili. 1978.
-Pictures from Sirine Ghadban, architect. www.ghadbandepascual.com;