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8.2 Inner City grid

The grid and especially its rectangular form is a highly common city form in downtown areas throughout the world. It is efficient: rectangular lots are easy to build. It is flexible: any use can be located anywhere in the grid. As Joan Copjec (
1991: 14) states: 'The grid merely coordinates spaces and thus provides one space with access to all the others.'

It is, however, questionable if the use of grid increases or decreases the degree of sense in urban environment. One could argue that it logicizes space and thus renders it intelligible. On the other hand, one could also propose that grid makes the environment monotonous and therefore decreases its intelligibility (Copjec 1991: 13).

In the case of Roseau, the Inner City grid is not monotone but contains various kinds of irregularities. One is the size of blocks. At the Bay Front most of the blocks are only about 25 to 25 metres in total. In the next two lines of blocks--on both sides of Hanover Street--the standard block size increases slightly to about 25 to 30 or 35 metres (Fig. 13; see Appendix 4 for street names). In the middle of the downtown grid area standard block size averages from 30 to 40 metres to 50 to 60 metres. The largest blocks on the outskirts of the grid area are already as much as 80 to 180 metres in extent, although the largest ones have a feeder lane inside the block.

Due to the change in scale there are fourteen streets that lead to the Bay Front while only five of them lead up to Bath Road--plus River Street that leads up to Bath Road but does not reach the Bay Front. This change in the number of streets causes discontinuities and breakdowns that are clearly visible if horizontal and vertical streets of the grid are layered separately (Fig. 12). Streets parallel with the Bay Front are here called 'horizontal' and those leading from the Bay Front direction to inland are called 'vertical'.

The major breaking line for vertical streets is at Old Street which is the fourth horizontal street from the sea. There the older small grid shifts to a newer and larger one. Further inland there are two dead-ends between Queen Mary Street and Bath Road. Thus there are two streets--Great Marlborough Street and Fields Lane--that reach neither to the Bay Front nor to Bath Road. That those streets are dead-ends is at least partially due to the lack of horizontal streets between Queen Mary Street and Bath Road--a fact that is clearly visible on the layer of horizontal streets (Fig. 12).

The grid varies not only by the size of its blocks but also by the width of its streets. There are wider streets that are usually also longer than the narrower ones, many of which are called 'lanes'. In the middle of the grid area the streets are arranged in a fairly systematic manner: every second one is a wide one and every other is narrow. This coincides with the breaking lines in a way that usually the narrow streets are those subject for breaks.

Not all of Central Roseau, however, is grid. In the very oldest part of the city at the southern end of the Bay Front the streets are irregular and crooked. The street layout of this so-called French Quarter dates back to the early 18th century when the French settled the site. When the British captured Dominica in 1761 they performed a survey for an orderly grid system. The plan was drawn up by a British surveyor Nathanial Minshall in 1768 (Honychurch 1991: 44-45).

The major breaking line between the grid and the French Quarter is at Cork Street where Hanover and Old Street turn to the French Quarter. This irregularity of streets creates some triangular blocks like the one between Hanover Street and Long Lane. Also the Old Market plaza in the center of the French Quarter has an irregular shape.

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