Edmund N. Bacon, 95, a Philadelphia city planner whose vision of urban renewal influenced a generation of city planners throughout the country, died Oct. 14 at his home in Philadelphia. No immediate cause of death could be determined, said his daughter Elinor Bacon. The youngest of his six children is the actor Kevin Bacon.
As director of the Philadelphia Planning Commission for more than 20 years, Mr. Bacon led the revitalization of the city's downtown, fostering a broad movement of urban renewal in other cities across the country. He became a nationally known -- and determinedly outspoken -- urban planner who was featured on the covers of Time and Life magazines in the 1960s. His 1967 book, "Design of Cities," is still used in architecture schools.
Long after he had retired from his powerful city planning post, Mr. Bacon continued to have a voice in Philadelphia's redevelopment. Two years ago, when he was 93, he balanced on a skateboard to protest a city ordinance that would prohibit skateboarding in a city park.
Mr. Bacon believed that architects had an obligation to honor a gentleman's agreement that no building in Philadelphia should exceed the 491-foot height of City Hall and the statue of William Penn perched atop it. The centrality of the building, Mr. Bacon said, with Penn gazing out at the city he founded, "tells us that we are an entity, that William Penn's dream of making a special place survives and that we all have an interest in keeping ourselves together."
In 1984, developer Willard Rouse -- the nephew of James Rouse, who founded Columbia -- built two towers that rose above Penn's statue, prompting Mr. Bacon's ire. Other buildings have since soared hundreds of feet over Penn's head.
Anyone who would violate the city's unwritten tradition, Mr. Bacon said, "would have to answer the age-old question, 'Are you a gentleman?' "
Descended from an old Quaker family that settled in Pennsylvania in 1682, Edmund Norwood Bacon was born in Philadelphia on May 2, 1910. He grew up in a city that had both a vibrant urban core and a storied place at the center of the nation's history. As a boy, he surveyed his city from the top of Philadelphia's City Hall and instantly knew he would devote his life to architecture and planning.
He graduated from Cornell University in 1932 with a degree in architecture and then went on a tour that led him through Europe to China. In Shanghai, he was impressed by the brightly colored buildings and roofs, which, he later said, "taught me that city planning is about movement through space, an architectural sequence of sensors and stimuli, up and down, light and dark, color and rhythm."
He studied at Cranbrook Academy of Art in Bloomfield Hills, Mich., with architect Eliel Saarinen and then worked as an urban planner in Flint, Mich., before returning to Philadelphia in 1940. At the time, he called his home town "the worst, most backward, stupid city that I ever heard of." But he also added that he would "devote my life's blood to making Philadelphia as good as I could."
After serving in the Navy in World War II, he joined the Philadelphia Planning Commission, becoming its executive director in 1949. He spearheaded the plan to redevelop Penn Center, which became Philadelphia's downtown commercial district, by demolishing a railroad yard, and he replaced a rundown riverfront section of the city with high-rise apartment buildings designed by I.M. Pei. Later, as residents renovated 18th-century rowhouses, the Society Hill neighborhood became one of Philadelphia's most desirable addresses.
"The landscape of this city would have been measurably different and decidedly poorer had Ed Bacon not chosen to be a Philadelphian," Pennsylvania Gov. Edward G. Rendell, a former Philadelphia mayor, told the Philadelphia Inquirer.
Mr. Bacon endured criticism that his plans sometimes disrupted the lives of the poor, and he occasionally clashed with preservationists and architects. He maintained that good design benefited everyone, and many of his plans emphasized the importance of historic buildings -- such as Independence Hall -- in Philadelphia's urban fabric.
"Great cities are not great because of individual buildings," he once said. "They're great because of the way things fit together."
After retiring from the city planning commission in 1970, Mr. Bacon was a consultant with a Montreal real-estate development company, Mondev International Ltd., and taught at the University of Pennsylvania and the University of Illinois.
Besides his son and daughter, survivors include four other children, Karin Bacon, Hilda Bacon, Michael Bacon and Kira Bacon; six grandchildren; and a great-granddaughter.
His wife of 52 years, Ruth Bacon, died in 1991.