Philadelphia currently has the 5th highest population density of any major US city. However, over 72% of the metropolitan population of Philadelphia resides outside of the city limits (Philadelphia County). Though Philadelphia's population decrease over the last 50 years has been considerable (currently 70% of the 1950 population), as a percentage change it pales in comparison to the intense growth experienced by the surrounding suburbs where the population has increased more than 220% over that same period of time.
Despite the numerous clear and present vacancies throughout, Philadelphia County remains dense in terms of its overall population. The broader metropolitan area as well – as defined the US census – continues to densify. If population density alone is not an accurate barometer of the quality of an urban fabric, what then differentiates these two organizational structures?
Philadelphia County proper suffers from a pervasive absence of urban programs and a deficiency in the urban infrastructure necessary to grow and sustain a vibrant 21st century urban ecology.
Filling the numerous voids of Philadelphia with conventional park / garden / recreation programs will superficially improve the urban fabric of the city, but such a move alone will not structurally affect the fundamental deficiencies of the metropolis.
The essential questions that this project aspires to answer are: “How can Philadelphia generate the multiplicitous urban programs necessary to take advantage of the social, cultural, economic and institutional infrastructures already present at localized moments within the larger conurbation?” and, “How can Philadelphia use these infrastructures to grow and sustain a vibrant 21st century urban ecology?”
Philadelphia does not need a conventional master plan or formal reconfiguration. As the archetypal post-industrial American city, Philadelphia needs a tactical operative system by which to navigate the shift from the collage urbanism of the 20th century to the EMERGENT URBANISM of the 21st.