The grid, one of the oldest architectural design tools, is a useful device for controlling the position of elements. It is perhaps the most common visual tool available to the landscape designer, architect, city planner, graphic designer, and all visual artists.
The attempt to organize space in a geometrical construction can be seen in this rendering of a funeral procession in a Thebes garden. The painting is from 13th Century BC.
Grids have been and continue to be used in all manner of layout tasks from urban design to building construction. A grid can help a designer control the positions of built and spatial elements, making the layout task more systematic. A grid is generally a series of straight vertical and horizontal lines, sets of intersecting lines that help the designer decide where to put things. The benefits of using a grid are multifarious, ranging from the psychological to the functional, and, of course, the aesthetic. For a landscape designer, garden designer, or novice homeowner this method of design can be essential for garden planning.
You can describe it, as a designer’s very own "enigma code" which can elevate design discourse to that of a science, and eradicate the creative block by "virtually" filling the blank page. The development of the grid in landscape design is a means by which to simplify, or “rationalize” the landscape through the process of spatially reorganizing the world to fit the logic of geometrical regularity. The intersections of a grid pattern can dictate gathering spaces.
Villa Lante in Bagnaia, Italy, is perhaps the consummate example of grid geometry used in the Renaissance period of landscape design. The design is a single longitudinal axis
(which at times is delineated as the centrally aligned promenade) that steps down along a sequence of horizontal plateaus dominating Vignola’s design for the garden. Gravity provides the force behind the garden’s waters cascading from a series of fountains, pools, and channels. At the base is a sixteen square terrace arranged as a parterre surrounding the central fountain.
On an urban planning scale, "imposing this mathematical order on the landscape had a profound impact on the environmental history of New York City. Much of the environmental variation on Manhattan Island was “obliterated” to make way for the homogenizing dictates of the grid.1" Thousands of years before the North American or European civilizations developed, cities such as Sirkap (now Islamabad), Tetihiuacan and ancient Chinese states were founded on rough grid plans (B.C.) that evolved over time. The use of the grid in town planning became more commonplace with the Roman Empire's military expansion.
When Rome destroyed Carthage, they rebuilt the city to the grid. www.mmdtkw.org
Norman Booth emphasizes visual linkage in Foundations of Landscape Architecture: "The grid can be applied to visually link a building to an adjoining landscape, unifying a broad range of plant materials within a garden. The absolute consistent size and shape of a grid’s modules diminish the disparities that exist in size, shape, color and texture of the materials within the modular boundaries. A clearly articulated grid provides a dominant order that diminished potential differences of shape, size, and orientation along individual objects in its field. The more idiosyncratic a grid is on the ground plane, the more effective it furnishes a unifying field." The grid can have multiple structures based on how it is coordinated with its axis: bilateral, cross-axial, aggregate and subdivided. These subdivisions form the basis of a modular and systematic approach to any layout.
Miller Garden, Dan Kiley
The Fernando Caruncho landscape above is a large landscape that has been organized through the use of a grid.
And it would be remiss not to include a Piet Mondian painting, or two….
1. Reuben Skye Rose-Redwood,
RATIONALIZING THE LANDSCAPE: SUPERIMPOSING THE GRID UPON THE ISLAND OF MANHATTAN, 2002