Scrambled? Another Contest

October 26, 2011 |  by  |  Possible City  |  , ,

Cedric Price's egg theory of cities

The late architect Cedric Price boiled down urban history to the progressive egg theory: cities, depending on the era of their formation, are either boiled (ancient, walled), fried (a center surrounded by successive rings), or scrambled (contemporary). Price’s theory doesn’t hold for Philadelphia. Says landscape architect Dilip da Cunha, “Philadelphia never grew from the center out, in successive rings.”

William Penn, of course, had a deliberate plan to create a decentralized, non-walled city (perhaps a carefully prepared mushroom omelet), but that plan was essentially thrown out upon landing in the New World. When Penn arrived, he found irate settlers living in caves along the Delaware, and no clear sense of where (or how large) his city could be. Penn established a new grid plan to fit the smaller space he was able to acquire. He assumed people would purchase lots along both rivers and the city would grow in toward the center. But most Philadelphians settled along the Delaware and from there the city grew very slowly, like a punctured yoke spreading across the pan.

And simultaneously (more or less), pioneer Philadelphians settled in the Northern Liberties, Germantown, Southwark, and Spring Garden (and in prototype urban enclaves like Burlington, in West Jersey), making the early city really quite a scramble.

All this is to say the egg metaphor doesn’t quite hold up as designed. But what might replace it?

We at Hidden City are in search of a better way to understand Philadelphia’s urban form. And so we turn to you. If the egg theory doesn’t hold, what’s yours? Please mail ideas to editor@hiddencityphila.org. The best, according to our editorial staff, will reward its owner with a Hidden City souvenir hardhat and a Hidden City membership.

And also: keep your eyes out for Stephen Currall’s upcoming historical deconstruction of Philadelphia’s actual shape, a story about the negotiation of religion, commerce, and ethnicity.

About the author

Hidden City co-editor Nathaniel Popkin’s latest book is the novel Lion and Leopard (The Head and The Hand Press). He is also the author of Song of the City (Four Walls Eight Windows/Basic Books) and The Possible City (Camino Books). He is senior writer and script editor of the Emmy-winning documentary series “Philadelphia: The Great Experiment” and the fiction review editor of Cleaver Magazine. Popkin's literary criticism appears in the Wall Street Journal, Public Books, The Kenyon Review, and The Millions. He is writer-in-residence of the Athenaeum of Philadelphia.



No Comments


Trackbacks

  1. News: New ICA curator, video art history @ PAFA, opportunities, and more!
  2. News: New ICA curator, video art history @ PAFA, opportunities, and more! « Fine Art « Fine Art

Leave a Reply

Comment moderation is enabled, no need to resubmit any comments posted.

 

Recent Posts
Church Demolition By The Numbers: More Questions Than Answers

Church Demolition By The Numbers: More Questions Than Answers

December 9, 2016  |  Soapbox

Since 2009, 28 churches have been demolished in Philadelphia. Is development pressure to blame? Partners for Sacred Places staffer and Hidden City contributor Rachel Hildebrandt says yes and does the math on the unabating trend > more

Hidden City Campaign Passes Halfway Point On Way To $30,000

Hidden City Campaign Passes Halfway Point On Way To $30,000

December 8, 2016  |  Buzz

Needed still to reach must-get goal of $30,000: about 180 readers to give $15, $25, $50, $75, or more! > more

Fade And A Shave: Inside Philly's Black Barbershops

Fade And A Shave: Inside Philly’s Black Barbershops

December 7, 2016  |  Last Light

Contributor Theresa Stigale documents life inside neighborhood barbershops with this photo essay > more

America's Oldest Road Takes Center Stage In New Documentary

America’s Oldest Road Takes Center Stage In New Documentary

December 5, 2016  |  Vantage

The King's Highway, the oldest continuously used road in America, is the subject of an award winning documentary premiering tonight at the Kimmel Center > more

A Moving Monument

A Moving Monument

December 5, 2016  |  News

Nearly four years after Hidden City proposed relocating the forlorn Newkirk Viaduct Monument from the side of the train tracks to the forthcoming Bartram's Mile segment of the Schuylkill River Trail system... that has happened. Brad Maule has the story of the 177-year-old monument's relocation > more

Inside SEPTA's Unused Underground Concourse, To Be Restored

Inside SEPTA’s Unused Underground Concourse, To Be Restored

December 2, 2016  |  Last Light

The Center City Concourse, a network of underground pedestrian walkways, has sat empty and largely unused for decades. But big plans are in the works to reopen and reanimate the dead space. Samantha Smyth and Chandra Lampreich takes us into the abandoned tunnels with this photo essay > more