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Next City Welcomes First Urbanist Pope to Philadelphia

Next City commissioned a custom illustration of the Pope on a bicycle in Love Park to commemorate his visit to Philadelphia. (Illustration by Natalya Bakay)

Pope Francis arrives in Philadelphia on Saturday and we are ready.

On Friday evening at dusk, Next City will launch “Projecting Better Cities,” a temporary video installation intended to amplify the Pope’s call on the United States to fight human-driven climate change, to design more integrated, healthy cities, and to help end poverty. Next City will be projecting our message onto the windows of our Center City Philadelphia office (on the 12th floor of 2 Penn Center at 1500 JFK Boulevard) overlooking Love Park. The video will be visible to all those passing by, September 25th through 28th, from 7 p.m. through midnight. Philadelphia artist Andrew Cameron Zahn, of CRUXspace, created the one-minute video.

Pope Francis is history’s first pope from Latin America. He knows from his experiences in fast-growing, global cities like Medellín and Rio de Janeiro that our shared future depends on finding ways to provide economic opportunity, decent housing and green space to the world’s rapidly multiplying population of city-dwellers. It’s no coincidence then that Pope Francis is also the first pope to name-check urban planners in his historic encyclical.

“Given the interrelationship between living space and human behavior, those who design buildings, neighborhoods, public spaces and cities, ought to draw on the various disciplines which help us to understand people’s thought processes, symbolic language and ways of acting,” the Pope wrote.

“It is not enough to seek the beauty of design. More precious still is the service we offer to another kind of beauty: people’s quality of life, their adaptation to the environment, encounter and mutual assistance. Here too, we see how important it is that urban planning always take into consideration the views of those who will live in these areas.”

The “people’s pope” has also made headlines with his love of bicycles and belief in transit over cars. Not to be outdone by the custom “people’s bike” Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter and the Philadelphia Bicycling Advocacy Board gave to Pope Francis, Next City commissioned Philadelphia artist Natalya Bakay to create a limited-edition, original artwork commemorating his visit. Donate to Next City to receive our custom illustration of the Pope on a bicycle in Love Park. A framed print will also be sent to Vatican City.