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Oakland’s 20 worst intersections become minimalist art

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Morning traffic never looked so good

Back in February, Seattle-based artist Peter Gorman turned 20 of San Francisco’s most twisted, confusing, and baffling street intersections into pleasing minimalist art as part of his “Barely Maps” series.

Where else was he to go from there except Oakland? Gorman’s Etsy store just updated with a new “Intersections of Oakland” piece, which boils down some of the town’s most lithesome lanes to their basic elements.

On Gorman’s print, the five-way split of MacArthur, 106th, and Myers looks like a stick figure that’s just finished a pratfall, while the outline of Skyline, Snake, Colton and Manzanita resembles a Halloween witch straddling a vacuum cleaner in lieu of a broom.

But the standout shape is probably MacArthur, Adeline, and San Pablo, which here looks like a torture device used to break driver’s wills rather than a crucial piece of commuter infrastructure. Yeesh.

Despite the twisted takes, Gorman tells Curbed SF he enjoyed researching Oakland history while picking and choosing which gridlock groupings to highlight.

“Oakland shares some features with many West-coast cities—conflicting grids [and] the transformative effect of cars” in the early 20th century, he says.

However, according to the SPUR essay the artist most often referred to, the biggest driver behind the city’s shape was its sudden population boom after the 1906 earthquake.

“Within weeks, nearly 3,000 businesses and professionals had relocated their work to Oakland,” SPUR planning director Egon Terplan and researcher Magda Maaoui wrote in 2015.

They add: “The influx to Oakland was not temporary; later that year only about 200 had returned to recovering San Francisco,” making for some particularly sharp growing pains.

Gorman’s “Barely Maps” series spans metro hubs from Los Angeles to Austin to the particularly misbegotten avenues of Boston.

He began doodling intersections after relocating to Seattle in 2014 and becoming intrigued by its layout—and the illustrations proved a hit.

Both Gorman’s Oakland and San Francisco pieces are presently in stock.