Wandering Italy Blog

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Wandering Italy Blog

Post by Carciofo on Wed Jan 15, 2014 12:18 pm

Interesting Wandering Italy Blog instalment arrived last week regarding grid patterns vs winding roads in city road planning. In it James Martin refers to an informative article he'd read on the subject  (http://www.carfree.com/papers/huf.html).  I was particularly interested in the subject because I remember being taught in school that the Romans originated the grid pattern but I can't think of any existing cities of Roman origin that use the grid.  Turns out windy roads in cities is more medieval than roman.

One thing in the carfree article perplexes me though.  Can anyone please explain to me what the author means here:

“I believe that the informal, irregular street arrangements often arose when paths turned into streets as people began to erect buildings along them. In hilly country, paths that have been beaten by humans and animals usually hold the maximum grade to near its lowest practical value. In so doing, they follow the contours of the site. In flat terrain, drainage features and soft soils similarly constrain the location of paths and usually favor firmer soils and drier sites.”

Does he mean grade as in gradient or grade as in quality?  I can't make sense of it.

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Re: Wandering Italy Blog

Post by Admin on Wed Jan 15, 2014 12:22 pm

Sounds to me like it should be gradient.
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Re: Wandering Italy Blog

Post by Carciofo on Wed Jan 15, 2014 1:58 pm

That was my assumption too but I don't understand the point he's making.  Does he mean that roads with steep gradients are of lowest use, or possibly that gradients are in inverse proportion to use?  That seems to me to be a bit like saying gravity is of least use when you want to stay aloft.  A gradient means you (or your beast of burden) have to work harder but does that equate to uselessness?  

Sorry if I'm coming across as obsessive, but I hate it when I don't understand things. Smile

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Re: Wandering Italy Blog

Post by modicasa on Wed Jan 15, 2014 4:51 pm

It means nothing to me.  Perhaps he means that ancestral paths are not very convenient.  Americans often seem perplexed by lack of grid planning and find it hard to grasp that grid planning comes with urban planning - most Italian towns grew before urban planning was invented, and unless based on Greek or Roman plans, grew entirely on convenience, ownership and contours of the land.  As most towns were walled, the roads were secondary to housing density, only in relatively new towns - those from 1700 onward do you find street grid planning, though some would say urban planning still has to be discovered in ITaly.

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Re: Wandering Italy Blog

Post by modicasa on Wed Jan 15, 2014 4:53 pm

The old centre of Naples is a prima example of a Greek grid.  Spaccanapoli and its parallel road ran east west with minor roads running north south.  Palermo too has a Greek/Arabic/Norman grid in the old town.

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Re: Wandering Italy Blog

Post by FBower on Wed Jan 15, 2014 7:38 pm

I assume gradient too and given the reference to contour lines would paraphrase that people only went as high as they had to when going around things i.e you may have to go up to get round a stream but as soon as it became possible to continue on the flat you didn't go any higher. Not sure this makes any more sense than the original!

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Re: Wandering Italy Blog

Post by Gala Placidia on Wed Jan 15, 2014 8:01 pm

I also think that gradient would be the correct word. Here is an interesting link on the topic History of the grid
It is interesting to notice that the Roman grid was very much in use in Spain at the time of the Roman conquest as it was the usual layout for Roman fortifications or "castra". In turn, this model was exported to the New world and many Latin American cities were planned according to the Roman grid... which actually was based on the Greek grid.
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Re: Wandering Italy Blog

Post by modicasa on Thu Jan 16, 2014 7:20 am

If he tried not to be verbose  he would just say that beaten paths tend to be as steep as practicable.  (Obviously they weren't made for cars, coaches or carriages, but for walking, droving and riding.)

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Re: Wandering Italy Blog

Post by Gala Placidia on Thu Jan 16, 2014 8:46 am

"Good writing is good thinking expressed clearly"  Very Happy
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Re: Wandering Italy Blog

Post by Perlasca on Thu Jan 16, 2014 9:23 am

modicasa wrote:If he tried not to be verbose  he would just say that beaten paths tend to be as steep as practicable.  (Obviously they weren't made for cars, coaches or carriages, but for walking, droving and riding.)

Having recently had to walk up the medieval mule path into Montefalcone Appennino, I can confirm modicasa's interpretation.  Am still out of breath!

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