Artist Peter Gorman has taken the clusters of mixed-up, convoluted, overlapping roadways that make up Philadelphia’s most unusual street intersections, and turned them into works of art.
“Intersections of Philadelphia” is the latest in his Barely Maps series, which has so far covered eight U.S. cities.
For each metropolis, Gorman chooses a set of visually interesting crossroads and abstracts them, turning them into imagery that look kind of like hieroglyphics — or, as one redditor pointed out, kind of like the alien language from the movie Stargate.
The project started last autumn with a poster based on Seattle, where Gorman, 31, currently lives. He’s got such a good response — more than 1,000 posters sold so far — that six weeks ago he quit his job at a nonprofit to concentrate on the map project full-time. Adding other cities was something he did to satisfy user interest.
“Philly was one of the most requested,” Gorman told Billy Penn, so he “reached out to friends and asked which intersections I had to include.”
The poster combines his pals’ recs with tidbits Gorman remembers from his own brief time here, during a stopover during an 11,000-mile cross-country bike trip.
“I knew I had to do the one where the two cheesesteak places are across from each other,” he said, apologizing for not remembering either Pat’s or Geno’s name.
“On…Passyunk?” he continued. “I’m not sure if I’m pronouncing that right.” (Don’t worry, Peter, no one here is sure of that either.)
Sure enough, Philly’s poster features the overlapping triangles at Cheesesteak Vegas. It also has the criss-cross of wedges at Frankford and Devereaux, the spaghetti of spokes at Aramingo and Lehigh and the bent-crowbar like hook of Market Street around City Hall.
“I have a vivid memory of trying to bike around that central square, Penn Square,” Gorman said.
Another no-brainer: The Red Lion crossing on Roosevelt Boulevard, considered one of the most dangerous intersections in the nation.
To choose which spots make it onto the final layout, Gorman first draws all the possibilities, then selects the most compelling of the bunch. “I gravitate toward the ones that make funny shapes.” then, he colors them in shades of yellows and whites and arranges them over a gray background, a color combination reminiscent of road paint.
Working on on Philadelphia was especially interesting, he said, because of the city’s urban planning history.
“I got to learn more about William Penn and his plan for the utopian grid,” Gorman said, “and how the day-to-day experience of people driving through it now doesn’t live up to that [ideal].”
Despite very minimal promotion (basically, just posting on reddit once), the Philly poster has already started selling well. All prints are made by Gorman in his home studio, then shipped rolled in a cardboard frame.