Museum of City of New York

Master Website for a Master Plan

Master Website for a Master Plan

Turning Maps into Time Machines

Guest curator Hilary Ballon, and her team at the Museum of the City of New York, invited MediaCombo to help them re-imagine their blockbuster exhibition The Greatest Grid: The Master Plan of Manhattan, 1811-2011, as an interactive virtual experience on the web.

Our shared goal was to bring the amazing story of the largest urban planning project in New York City’s history to the biggest audience possible.

The idea for Manhattan’s grid became real when the brilliant surveyor John Randel was hired to draw up the 1811 Commissioners Plan, laying out the grid from Houston Street all the way up to 155th Street, from the East River to the Hudson. The Plan defines the city we know today.

In 1818 Randel produced an atlas of 92 beautiful water color maps illustrating the geography of the entire island. They outline the contours of all the property lines indicating who owned the land, and show the future locations of the rectangular city blocks that were to come.

Interactive Maps

MediaCombo transformed the 1811 Commissioners Plan (see the slide show above) and the 92 part atlas (see the video below) into interactive landscapes where you can toggle between 1811 and 2015 to see how precisely Randel’s vision matches, and also varies from, the 21st century reality. You can also search geographic features, names of landowners, find your address, locate specific streets then and now, and study key features of the maps.

You can also follow the story of battles between visionary city fathers and private land owners who didn’t want to see their farms carved up, until some of them, like John Jacob Astor, realized how much money could be made selling off plots of land. And thus, the real estate market was born!

The website launched in May, 2015 and immediately won a W3 silver award.

Fun Fact 1

Fun Fact 2

Fun Fact 3


MediaCombo created a perfect fit between interactive design and content. They studied the exhibition material and proposed solutions that optimized digital tools to explore the historical images and documents. Their design was user friendly and elegant. It was a genuine pleasure to create a web site with MediaCombo.

– Hilary Ballon 

Curator, The Greatest Grid, MCNY Deputy Vice Chancellor, NYU Abu Dhabi University Professor, Professor of Urban Studies and Architecture, Robert F. Wagner Graduate School of Public Service

  • user experience design
  • interactive map design
  • graphic design
  • website development
  • Team
  • Lara Kohl, user experience designer
  • Ellen Zhao, graphic designer
  • Anandaroop Roy, interactive map designer
  • Atta Assad, HTML5 developer
  • Robin White Owen, producer
  • Category

    Web & Interactive

    History, Maps, Website