The Possible City: Exercises in Dreaming Philadelphia

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9781933822181: The Possible City: Exercises in Dreaming Philadelphia

Philadelphia without revolution, industry, or influence, says author Nathaniel Popkin, lives on by invention. The Possible City, the title of his new book , emerges from our dreams. Here, in the loving hand of the city planner-turned-writer, is the architecture of Philadelphia s present resurgence. Here are the city s beguiling founding ideals, the physical ruins of its might, and the search, amidst row house streets, for elevation, for an open city that delights, inspires, and rewards.

In the search for openness, Popkin encounters Philadelphia s defensive pride, its instinct to protect, its fear of further loss. As a response, he posits a new framework for cities everywhere. No longer is it enough for a city merely to function. To elevate civilization, instead a city must perform it must build, create, invent.

In the final analysis, then, it isn t dreaming that best characterizes Philadelphia but rather doing. Intrinsic to this effort are artists, those whose work transforms and is transformed by the cityscape all around. This act of transformation, a kind of performance, is telling of the city s power and is, Popkin says, precisely what cities have to do.

A city that functions provides shelter, transportation, common ground for the production of culture and commerce. But a city that performs also wows us, inspires, entertains, dazzles, and raises the specter of our consciousness. It is comforting and challenging, open and particular; it makes human life not just possible but extraordinary.

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About the Author:

Nathaniel Popkin has degrees in urban studies and city planning from the University of Pennsylvania and has been writing about cities for 20 years. He is the author of Song of the City and lives in Philadelphia.

Review:

Nathaniel Popkin is a visionary with two feet on the ground, a poet who finds verse in the everyday, the extraordinary in the ordinary. In these elegantly crafted essays, Popkin imagines a future animated by the city s rich past and grounded in its troubled but still beautiful present. To spend time in Popkin s Philadelphia is to see the city anew. --Thomas J. Sugrue, Kahn Professor of History and Sociology, University of Pennsylvania

To know a city is to walk it through...with loving heart. To dream a city is to tangle and to juxtapose, to yield to heroics and romance. Nathaniel Popkin knows, he dreams, and with profoundly beautiful, often surprising prose, he suggests a whole and hallowed Philadelphia. --Beth Kephart, author of Flow: The Life and Times of Philadelphia s Schuylkill River

[In this] lovely book Popkin has written an evocative and provocative portrait of a great but flawed city. It is defiant and fierce and filled with the power and potential of urban life. It should be read by anyone who loves cities and dreams of making them better. --Richard C. Schragger, Professor of Law, University of Virginia

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