In the early evening we headed up the West Side to meet a good friend, Kate Ascher. Kate has published two authoritative works respectively about the city and its logistics (The Works) and about skyscrapers (The Heights). Currently Milstein Professor of Urban DevelopmentĀ at Columbia University, Kate gave us a guided tour of the university campus before we headed off to an Italian restaurant on Morningside Heights. She described to us how Mayor DeWitt Cinton had effectively imposed New York’s familiar grid system on middle and upper Manhattan in 1811, at a time when most of that land was still undeveloped. The name, Manhattan, is a corrupted version of the indigenous Lenape Indian name for the island, ‘Manna-hata’, and apocryphally means ‘many hills’. That there aren’t any hills any more is also down to DeWitt Clinton and the city’s early developers, for as Kate explained to us, they levelled everything out to maximise the number of plots that could be built upon. The grid and Manhattan’s relative flatness make New York an easily navigable city and are now completely taken for granted but the creations of both were, inĀ their day, prodigious feats.