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February 26, 2003



Portland Oregon's City Repair paid Seattle a visit in the form of Mark Lakeman, who presented a slideshow at Panama Coffee and Tea tonight. The grid design of cities originated with a prison camp 5,000 years ago. The Roman Empire adopted the plan as it eased conquest and erased the traditional features of the cultures it replaced--the winding paths and gathering places built up over centuries of habitation (illustrated by the slide of a waterhole in Africa at left; the glyph on the right is an ancient Egyptian symbol for city where the order of right angles is imposed on the naturally occurring circle).

The Founding Fathers of the USA were neoclassicists enchanted by all things Roman (law, architecture, economics), and so decreed in 1785 that all settlements west of the Ohio River would be laid out on a grid--the blueprint of imperial conquest. City Repair reverses this rigidity and replaces the divisive grid structure with inclusive community gathering places. They do it with art.