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Seattle's most infamous intersections highlighted in minimalist map

The city’s ‘uniquely wacky’ street grids become abstract icons

Westlake Avenue around Virginia Street, back when it used to also intersect with Olive Way in 1949.
Seattle Municipal Archives

“When I first moved to Seattle,” reads the description for this minimalist map of Seattle intersections on Etsy, “a friend told me that Seattle's layout is easy to understand. ‘It's all a grid,’ she said, ‘until it's not.’”

The collection of mini-maps, designed by Barely Maps, also known as local artist Peter Gorman, highlights the “not.” In his map of Seattle, Gorman takes Seattle’s most complex intersections and distills them down to abstract icons.

That includes Queen Anne’s infamous seven-way stop, the odd-angle meeting of arterials at MLK Way and 23rd Avenue, and the asterisk-shaped grid of Nickerson, Florentina, and Third right before the Fremont Bridge.

Courtesy of Peter Gorman

We spoke with Gorman over email about the map and Seattle’s “uniquely wacky” layout.

Curbed Seattle: Are you from Seattle originally, or did you just fall in love with our winning street grid?

Peter Gorman: I'm not from Seattle originally. I first visited when I was on a one-year bicycle trip around the country. I fell in love with the city and region and decided to move here when the trip was over.

CS: You create maps of many cities. What stood out to you about Seattle?

PG: I've been wanting to create a map of Seattle for a while, but I couldn't find a layout, pattern, or structure that made sense to me. So, just a few days ago, I had the idea to base the map around that fact, that nothing seems to make sense in the city's layout. I did some research on the most infamous intersections, and then really liked the way they looked in abstract. It seemed to click.

CS: Out of all of these intersections you've illustrated, do you have one that's a favorite? Either out of genuine love or one that's especially fun to talk about.

PG: My favorite intersection is probably 39th [Avenue], Fremont, and Fremont. I live in Greenwood and commute by bicycle, so that (long) stoplight is a nice resting spot when climbing the massive Fremont hill.

CS: Are there any other cities that come close in layout that you saw—on your trip or your travels?

PG: I think Seattle's layout is uniquely wacky. I can't think of any other city that compares.

Prints of Gorman’s map, along with maps of other cities, including Cambridge, Portland, and Manhattan, are for sale on the Barely Maps Etsy shop.