4. Measurement & Meaning

A) The Grid

The so-called grid system, oriented to the four points of the compass and extending from Ohio to the Pacific, could also be organized into townships and counties and even states, all beautifully rectangular. It was an ingenious, if unimaginative, way of creating a landscape, but it was not easy to get used to, and in the beginning settlers from the East or from Europe complained of its monotony and its disregard of the topography; in fact, the grid made no adjustment to rivers or hills or marshlands. Still, by now, more than two centuries later, there are millions of Americans so thoroughly at home in the grid that they cannot conceive of any other way of organizing space. I have been in homes in Kansas where they refer to the southwest (or northwest) burner on their stove. They tell you that the bathroom is upstairs, straight ahead south. (4)

It is this grid, not the eagle or the stars and stripes, which is our true national emblem. I think it must be imprinted at the moment of conception on every American child, to remain throughout his or her life a way of calculating not only space but movement. (153)

A Sense of Place, a Sense of Time (1994)
John Brinckerhoff Jackson