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

Nathaniel Popkin is co-founder of the Hidden City Daily and author of three books of non-fiction, including Philadelphia: Finding the Hidden City (with Peter Woodall and Joseph E.B. Elliott) and two novels, Everything is Borrowed and Lion and Leopard. He is co-editor of Who Will Speak for America, an anthology forthcoming in June 2018, and the senior writer of the film documentary "Philadelphia: The Great Experiment."



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
Jefferson Makes Room For Modernism With New Preservation Program

Jefferson Makes Room For Modernism With New Preservation Program

January 4, 2019  |  News

Jefferson University brings Modernist architecture to the forefront with their new historic preservation program and center for studies. Michael Bixler has the news > more

House Museum In North Philly Plans Monument For Former Slave

House Museum In North Philly Plans Monument For Former Slave

January 3, 2019  |  Vantage

Stenton, the former plantation house in Logan, prepares to honor Dinah with their new project, Inequality in Bronze. Keshler Thibert has the details > more

Lost Buildings of 2018

Lost Buildings of 2018

December 27, 2018  |  News

Philadelphia's preservation crisis reached a critical high in 2018 with a record-breaking number of demolition permits approved by the City. Here we highlight some of the biggest loses to our built environment in our annual end-of-year list > more

Having A Good One This Holiday Season In Philadelphia

Having A Good One This Holiday Season In Philadelphia

December 21, 2018  |  Last Light

Seasons Greetings from Hidden City! Michael Bixler dives deep into the archives and brings back a bounty of Philly holiday cheer > more

Best Architecture, Urban Design, & Public Art Of 2018

Best Architecture, Urban Design, & Public Art Of 2018

December 20, 2018  |  Vantage

It was a banner year for architecture, art, adaptive reuse, and design. JoAnn Greco shines a light on Philly's best projects of 2018 > more

New Book On W.E.B. Du Bois Colors In

New Book On W.E.B. Du Bois Colors In “White Space”

December 18, 2018  |  Walk the Walk

The pioneering research of W.E.B. Du Bois on race, class, and data collection are on display in a strikingly visual new volume, "W.E.B. Du Bois's Data Portraits: Visualizing Black America." Joe Brin has this book review > more