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
Unlisted Philadelphia: Atlantic Snuff Company

Unlisted Philadelphia: Atlantic Snuff Company

February 17, 2017  |  Unlisted Philadelphia

Architectural illustrator Ben Leech spotlights unique and significant buildings not protected on the local register with his series, Unlisted Philadelphia. In this installment, a High Victorian in Chinatown that's still up to snuff > more

Inside The Empty, Gilded Halls Of Elkins Estate

Inside The Empty, Gilded Halls Of Elkins Estate

February 16, 2017  |  Last Light

Photographer Kris Catherine gives an exclusive look inside the opulent mansions of Elkins Estate > more

Dial Up For The Latest Election News

Dial Up For The Latest Election News

February 14, 2017  |  Harry K's Encyclopedia

Harry K. dials up the Evening Telegraph Information Bureau, a pilot communications service in 1905 that provided Keystone Telephone customers with news and information at a moment's notice > more

La Salle University Threatens Germantown Landmarks

La Salle University Threatens Germantown Landmarks

February 9, 2017  |  Soapbox

On Friday, the Historical Commission will consider legal protections for two historic Germantown homes. Owners La Salle University will oppose the nominations to retain their right to demolition. Arielle Harris makes a case for saving these two Wister family properties and reveals La Salle's long tradition of razing neighborhood landmarks > more

Paging Dr. Typewriter: Healing Old Tech On Fabric Row

Paging Dr. Typewriter: Healing Old Tech On Fabric Row

February 8, 2017  |  Walk the Walk

Bryan Kravitz brings old Remingtons back from the dead at his repair shop in Mt. Airy and typing salon in South Philly. Joe Brin has the story > more

An Indelible Corner Of The Eraserhood

An Indelible Corner Of The Eraserhood

February 7, 2017  |  The Shadow Knows

The Shadow heads down to the corner of Ridge Avenue and 11th Street where an attractive wire and steel warehouse stands out like a diamond among broken glass > more