Praise for Penn’s Philadelphia Grid

The Guardian dubs it a "utopian ideal" that lives on both here and around the world.

William Penn | Wikimedia Commons

William Penn | Wikimedia Commons

Turns out that William Penn was one smart dude.

We know that in Philadelphia, of course, but here comes The Guardian, pouring praise onto Penn and his grid plan for Philadelphia, dubbing the scheme a “utopian urban ideal” that lives on in cities around the world.

What’s more, William Penn’s planning process turned out to be great for bringing a bit of green into the otherwise asphalt-covered 21st century city:

But what makes Philadelphia’s grid so distinctive, and enduring, is “the green idea” embedded in its initial concept. For Kate Wingert-Playdon, associate dean of architecture and environmental design at Temple University’s Tyler School of Art, this is the thread that links Penn’s vision to the present day, and has become Philadelphia’s “core asset and value”. While many American cities promote the idea of sustainability, she argues that Philadelphia’s strategy for green growth – including its bid to be the greenest city in the US – builds directly on its founding planning principles.

Even the smallest urban lots in Holme’s plan provided room for a garden and small orchard alongside a house – “to the great content and satisfaction of all here concerned” – and streets that initially commemorated prominent residents were renamed after “the things that spontaneously grow in the country”, such as Chestnut, Mulberry and Vine.

The Guardian concludes: “However much the physical imprint of Penn’s plan may morph and fade, the values inscribed in his grid and squares – egality, adaptability, community, greenness – promise to shape the city’s image for years to come.” The article is part of the Guardian’s 50-part series charting the world’s urbanization. You can read the whole Philly piece here.