Co-editor of the on-line magazine Hidden City Daily, Nathaniel Popkin is a journalist, author, film writer, historian, and critic. Since 2002, with the publication of his first book, Song of the City: An Intimate History of the American Urban Landscape (Four Walls Eight Windows-Basic Books), he has been a distinctive urbanist voice in the conversation about Philadelphia’s future and a careful observer of the city in the context of American life. According to Tom Sugrue, historian of the University of Pennsylvania, Popkin is “a visionary with two feet on the ground, a poet who finds verse in the everyday.”
A long time contributor to the Philadelphia City Paper, in 2011-12, Popkin was the guest architecture critic of the Philadelphia Inquirer.
He is also the senior writer of the documentary film series “Philadelphia: The Great Experiment,” a multi-part, mixed-medium project broadcast locally on Philadelphia’s ABC affiliate station.
Descriptive and optimistic like Walt Whitman, Popkin combines literary scope with a keen understanding of urban policy, architecture, and history. Trained as a city planner at Penn’s Graduate School of Design (’94), Popkin’s writing often takes the reader onto the street, exploring the space where the built environment meets the metaphysical city of culture and ideas.
Both Song of the City and his 2008 book The Possible City: Exercises in Dreaming Philadelphia (Camino Books) have garnered generous praise from scholars and writers alike.
Philadelphia Inquirer book critic Carlin Romano called Song of the City “exquisitely literary … electric.” In Metropolitan Philadelphia: Living in the Presence of the Past, historian Steve Conn wrote that Song of the City is “the finest book about contemporary Philadelphia I have come across.” The book was chosen in 2007 as required text for Philadelphia University’s “First Year Experience” program. The novelist Beth Kephart, author of Flow: The Life and Times of Philadelphia’s Schuylkill River, calls Popkin’s writing “profoundly beautiful, often surprising.”