Philadelphia: Finding the Hidden City


Philadelphia: Finding the Hidden City is a journey to the essence of one America’s greatest and yet least understood cities, Philadelphia, to reveal the physical and cultural intricacies of place, from the intimate to the monumental.

Written by two expert urban observers, Nathaniel Popkin and Peter Woodall, and photographed by one of America’s most lauded architectural photographers, Joseph E.B. Elliott, the book marks out the elements of Philadelphia’s hiddenness through its vivid layers and living ruins. Quite unlike books of urban loss that lament or celebrate decline, Finding the Hidden City connects Philadelphia’s particularly accretive form to its idiosyncratic history, culture, and people. By laying out these connections the authors develop an alternative theory of American urbanism to contrast with the better-understood narratives of New York and Los Angeles. The journey here is as much visual as it is literary; Joseph Elliott’s striking photographs reveal the elemental beauty of Philadelphia never before seen.


“With stunning photographs and vivid prose, ​Philadelphia: Finding the Hidden City takes us on a fascinating journey through the submerged urban realm and provides an essential Baedeker to Philadelphia’s past by offering entree to its hidden places of privilege, production and prayer.”
—Michael Z. Wise, author of Capital Dilemma: Germany’s Search for a New Architecture of Democracy

“From neighborhood churches and factories to former prisons and power plants, Philadelphia: Finding the Hidden City reveals an urban landscape and way of life that has all but disappeared. Nathaniel Popkin and Peter Woodall unearth the soul of a city and recall a time when dreams were manifest in brick, carved wood, iron, and stone. Joseph Elliott’s poignant photographs show the care and craftsmanship invested in the making of these spaces, evoking a sense of awe and mystery, and also a sadness for the fragility of this built environment, reminding us of the need to preserve a cultural history being swept away by indifference in the name of modernization.”
—Christopher Payne, photographer and author of Asylum: Inside the Closed World of State Mental Hospitals

“A winner—both in prose and in images.”
—J. Michael Welton, Architects + Artisans

“There are times when the prose writing takes an almost poetic turn, in particular when discussing the layers of ruins that comprise a city. I found myself thinking of Italo Calvino’s Invisible Cities more than once while reading Finding the Hidden City.”
—Todd Woodward, Context Magazine