The Sombre Sadness of Right Angles

Fabrizio del Wrongo writes:


The train reached Ogden at two o’clock, where it rested for six hours. Mr. Fogg and his party had time to pay a visit to Salt Lake City, connected with Ogden by a branch road; and they spent two hours in this strikingly American town, built on the pattern of other cities of the Union, like a checker-board, “with the sombre sadness of right-angles,” as Victor Hugo expresses it. The founder of the City of the Saints could not escape from the taste for symmetry which distinguishes the Anglo-Saxons. In this strange country, where the people are certainly not up to the level of their institutions, everything is done “squarely” — cities, houses, and follies.

— Jules Verne

About Fabrizio del Wrongo

Recovering liberal arts major. Unrepentant movie nut. Aspiring boozehound.
This entry was posted in Architecture, Books Publishing and Writing and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to The Sombre Sadness of Right Angles

  1. Fenster says:

    Odd for a Frenchman

    to grouse about Anglo-Saxon need for symmetry.


  2. It’s my impression that grid streets were introduced to the US by French architect L’enfant, with Washington D.C.

    To Spengler the grid-city is a marker of a late-autumn to winter phase of a culture, when giant populations arise. It happened in China, India, Mexico, the Roman empire, all over the world.

    My hometown Phoenix Metro is the griddiest city I’ve ever seen. Convenient, easy to navigate, and dull.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Will S. says:

    In the early part of the last decade, I lived in Edmonton, Alberta, for almost a year, where most of the streets (running north-south) and the avenues (running east-west) were numbered, in a grid; the further north and west you went, the higher the numbers of the streets and avenues, respectively. I found it un-romantic and dull and hyper-rationalist, and I missed street names. But at least it made some sense, and made it relatively easy to find places.

    Then I moved to Calgary, Alberta, where I lived for three years. Also a grid city, with streets running north-south and avenues running east-west – and mostly numbered, but only increasing as one goes north or west in the north half of the city; it was the other way around in the south half, and further, it was divided into quadrants – NW, NE, SW, SE – so you had to know what quadrant a place was in, as well as the street or avenue number. It was horrible.

    I was very happy to return to Ontario, where big cities like Toronto and Ottawa have named streets and avenues, and one just has to learn them, that’s all.


  4. agnostic says:

    Verne was born and raised in Brittany (Nantes), and way back his mother’s side originally hailed from Scotland.

    That’s just Celtic chafing at North Germanic rationalism.


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