The graph paper in JNL Durand’s method of planning is an escalating instrument both actual and symbolic, a hypertext to which all scales relate. Durand’s grid is first regulatory, its economy of means locating ‘utility’ as the overriding criteria of assessing a plan; it is also generative, the ground of a compositional process for producing not only buildings but also knowledge. In this sense, the grid retreats into the background and explains the plan’s metonymical nature: its paradoxical ability to denote something larger than itself. Durand’s grid therefore coexists as a conflicting system of values, an ongoing search for disciplinary autonomy, while also serving an external determination: the city.
The generative power of the grid, long attributed to Durand, finds one of its more explicit expressions in the Museum of Unlimited Growth by Le Corbusier. Here, the grid starts as the regulatory system of the organisation of knowledge in an ambitious effort to classify the world. It then becomes the programmatic manifestation of an ever-growing collection, and thus the generator of a never-ending building. From within to without, the grid expands further to produce a spiral that exceeds the limits of its own plot, surpassing the scale of architecture in order to begin its journey over the city.