The European City Centre With No Street Names

The European City Centre With No Street Names

I like finding exceptions to rules. The sort of things that expose assumptions
about how we think the world works, and that confuse any computer system that
isn’t set up to accept them. Like: streets have names, right? Okay, sure, there are some people out there
who’ll immediately go, ah, no, see, there are lots of streets
that don’t have names, in rural areas and the developing world, or there are the roads that just have
a number or a letter. And some of you will go, oh, well, actually,
Japan. Most of Japan doesn’t name its streets,
it names and numbers its city blocks, and besides it’s more complicated than that… But, okay. In a Western European nation
like Germany, in the centre of a large city like Mannheim, you’d expect there to be street names. Nah. Welcome to the exception to the rule. Here inside the Quadrates of Mannheim,
the Squares of the town centre, only a few major streets have names. Every other building is referred to
by which square it’s on, as part of a grid. The west half gets the letters A-K;
the east half, L-U, and that’s followed by the number of blocks
from the centre. So you can have C4, or in German “𝕮𝟜” [see-fear], which explains why the art gallery on it
is called Zephyr. Given the German reputation for humour,
that’s a pretty good multilingual pun. None of the modern mapping companies know
what to do with this. They’d be fine if the whole country ran on
a different system, but mixing and matching in the same area, in a region that, as far as most people know,
just doesn’t do this… well, they can’t cope. Google and Microsoft get confused and give
each road multiple names. Apple insist that each road just has one name,
and they’re entirely wrong, although it’s Apple Maps, so, you know(!) OpenStreetMap, which is community-led, recognises
full addresses but not the individual blocks, although presumably that’ll be fixed within
a few hours of this video being uploaded. This isn’t some modern invention, either. This isn’t something brought on by future-looking
city planners rebuilding after the Second World War, or 80s planners getting ahead of themselves. While the numbering patterns have changed
over the years, this bit of Mannheim has had some form of
block numbering for a long, long time. Why change it just because some programmers
can’t figure out how to put it into their database? The programmers have only been around for a
few years. This city has been around for centuries. The address of a place here in the Quadrates
really is just a number, then a block, Mannheim, Germany. Even if some computers don’t believe it.

100 comments on “The European City Centre With No Street Names

  1. It's nice to be back to occasional videos that are just me, in a place, saying a thing. They may not be regular any more, but they're still fun to make.

  2. I live in Germany and I live near Mannheim. I knew by the title that the video is gonna be about Mannheim, because I was there yesterday and was really confused by these numbers and letters.

  3. But why? what was the reason for doing it like this when the rest of Germany does it the other way? thats the question i would like to know the answer to.

  4. a grid doesnt need named streets, but something complex with trunks & arteries probably does (especially for pathfinding, staying on the primary street until turning onto the most efficient choice of branch)

  5. This happens a lot in my city. New neighborhoods are build or at least the parcels sold by private companies or workers unions. As these are sold before the public areas are handed to the city the parcels are given a letter and a number based in its position according to the gird (almost all neighborhoods are girderd). When the streets and public spaces are handed to the city it takes some time to give names to the streets so people get used to the block and lot naming system

  6. I wonder if blocks having a name rather than a street changes the way neighbours interact. It might make more sense in a city with busy streets where crossing roads might impede casual friendships with people across the road. Also some large businesses will occupy a block and only need one address, rather than one for each of the streets it has an entrance on.

  7. In Colombia, there are not street names but are named by numbers. Basically if you want to go to the east, the number of each block will decrease, if you want to go to the north, the number will increase. In that way, if you are given an address, you will exactly know which way to go. Example: Calle 15 # 100 (carrera) – 05(unique number for each place) . Calle (streets from west to east or viceversa) Carrera (streets from north to east or viceversa). This is taking into account that most cities are grid designed.

  8. A lot of the way modern Japan does stuff, like laying out the city, is influenced by the Western World post World War II. Germany in particular was a big influence, like the prefectural division. So I feel like the fact that this system is used in Germany is part of why Japan uses it. Perhaps I am just misinformed tho'.

  9. I lived in Germany, and can attest that city street names changes from block to block, sometimes mid-block, can be a nightmare.

    "Turn left on to Goethe and drive until it becomes Schiller, right after it becomes Handel, and make a left on to Fritz. You're there when Fritz ultimately changes to Olga."

  10. This seems like a perfectly sensible way of working out city addresses … well, so long as your city is based on a gridiron block system, same as the issue with Superblocks, anyway. And of course it'll confuse the hell out of a typical Satnav – "in 100 metres, turn left onto… onto… <syntax error> <redo from start>".

  11. All the little incongruent bits of life and the systems we create to understand our lives in the world are one of the many things that makes life so interesting! Thanks for making so many videos about these little quirks <3

  12. There's also lot's of villages especially in Bavaria, where there's not street names. Either the houses are just numbered, so the address would be "Village Name" "Number", "Postal Code" "Village Name". Sometimes they might also have so called "Bezirke"/"Districts", e.g., letters, which is similar to Mannheim's system, except they don't refer to a block but rather a larger area.

  13. seems kinda cold and sterile that everything is only defined by a letter and number like some kind of lab rat. Street names give a bit of romance and often give great references to nature, culture or people… i think for the most part i prefer having street names but i guess on second thought i don't mind a few odd places functioning differently. After all diversity is also a great thing.

  14. One of Europe's neighbors, Lebanon, has streets that have no name at all. Not just a number, or a identifiable block. Just no name at all. You address is then essentially a description from known places.

  15. Moving there in a few weeks and my Dutch moving company is already stressed out… I am too…hoping, that my stuff arrives at the right place.

  16. This square system goes only for the inner city. The rest of Mannheim has normal street names. But it's actually a very useful system. If you can count and know the alphabet you can find any adress without a map. Every block is like a square on a chessboard. The numbers run around the block, so you can find the house where you want to go to.

  17. That's ok, most websites still insist on a county for Welsh addresses, despite them not forming part of the postal address.

  18. bruh in the netherlands there are so many neighbourhoods with over 1000 houses (no flats, singular houses) without street names because the entire neighbourhood (couple of square km) is called that.

  19. Would the solution be to "name" the only one side of the street by the number of the block it touches, and even though it is the same road, have the other side of the same street "named" by the other block that it touches? Each block would be en-circled by a street with its "name" and leave computer navigation functional… Main downside would be the system would have difficulty with U-Turns and such that cross from one "street" to the other side of the same "street"…

  20. I've been to Mannheim on several occasions. However, it was in Army vehicles from the Bahnhof, so I never noticed this peculiarity!

  21. South Africa has a lot of changing of place names and street names. Some prankster stole a 'Malema' street name, and put it up in a respected neighbourhood. Malema is a polical figure with a lot of controversey.

  22. Salt Lake City, Utah operates in similar fashion. The Mormon Temple is the center point (in gamedev terms, the "weinie"), and the streets are coordinates that reference the center.

  23. Hi Tom, I actually live in one of the places your clip showed!
    Unfortunately not a lot has happened, several maps get the Mannheim city center system wrong… which is why I was denied online services quite a few times yet! It is like they think I am making things up!
    Greetings tho! 😉

  24. Soviet cities use a block system for "microraions", those big masses of apartment buildings. The amount of them varies greatly from city to city but I know that Aqtau, a city built at a uranium mine on the barren shore of the Caspian Sea in western Kazakhstan, is entirely on the "microraion" system.

  25. When I saw the street and buildings I instantly knew it was in Germany, even though I have never been to Mannheim. That‘s our wounderful Nachkriegsarchitektur, add a grey sky and you have almost every German street during daytime.

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