Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Getting Directions

In grid cities, addresses are effectively directions. If you know the numeric location of a site (say, the intersection of 1st and 1st--the nexus of the universe), then you necessarily know how to get there. In non-grid cities, you give directions in terms of landmarks. Where is Great Lakes Brewery? It's next to the West Side Market. Where is CWRU's library? It's near the Art Museum. Where is the FedexKinkos in Corapolis? It's in the shopping center with the Mens Wearhouse. You get the picture!

I've found it very interesting living in non-grid cities. Since directions are generally given in terms of landmarks, you find yourself conceiving of the city as an interconnected series of nexuses, rather than a system of criss-crossing lines along which buildings happen to be located. Minneapolis is somewhere in the middle of the grid / non-grid spectrum. I find that I often give, and get, directions in terms of major intersections (Grand & Snelling, Franklin & Hennepin, for instance). These aren't exactly landmarks, but it's not a number-street system either (with the exception of South Mpls, of course).


Blogger Erica M said...

I know all the lakes and rivers make it difficult, but I do really love the alphabet/street thing in south Minneapolis (which covers a good chunk of north Minneapolis, too).

12:52 PM  
Anonymous Bonnie Erickson said...

I'm learning every day. Grid vs. non-grid. I now have a label to distinguish between the St. Paul and Minneapolis street system. Minneapolis is a straight grid system, isn't it? The streets are alphabetical one direction (north south) and numeric the other (east/west?) except in northeast Minneapolis where the street names are the presidents in the order of their election as president with some strangers added in. At least in Minneapolis you know there is a block for each set of 100 numbers. In St. Paul you might go three or four blocks before getting to the next set of 100. As to alphabetizing streets in St. Paul. . . Jesse Ventura may have been right in joking about the way street names were assigned here. For sure there is no logical system! So, St. Paul is non-grid and Minneapolis is a grid system.

11:30 PM  
Anonymous Kevin said...

The other odd thing about Minneapolis is that odd area in downtown where the grid rotates about 20 degrees.

I just got a great book called The Street Where You Live: A Guide to the Place Names of St. Paul
Among the really interesting factoids is a formula used by St Paul public works for assigning housenumbers in st paul:
N =2(((H-L)/2+1)D/B)+L

N is the house number
H is the highest established corner number
L is the lowest established corner number
D is the distance (in feet) from the door of the house to L
B is the length of the block (in feet)

10:28 AM  

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