Introduction: Whose grid was it anyway?
The starting point for the grid is the location of rocky ledge that separated the salt from fresh water on the Yarra River. This place is now commemorated in the name of a campus of skyscrapers that on the south bank of this location on the river – Freshwater Place. This place was attractive to those who wanted to set up a new settlement for the colony, but also to the people of the Kulin Nation who inhabited this country prior to their arrival.
The grid became a way of organising and controlling the space of Melbourne. The grid was superimposed over the native and cultural landscape of the Aboriginal people of the area, but also overlayed the organic tracks and spontaneous constructions of the new settlers.
The grid was a logical principle, reflecting the influence of Enlightenment thinking in town planning. The grid's wide streets were seen as a superior way of moving people around a city, and of ensuring law and order through visibility.
There remains controvery as to the origins of the grid's design – was it Robert Russell or Robert Hoddle that first came up with the idea?
The extension of the grid has followed plans (both real and fanciful) for Melbourne's growth and development, beyond its original boundaries. With the arrival of the gold rush, Melbourne found itself at the heart of a collection of villages separated by open space which was rapidly filled in with an extension of the grid idea.