Inside Corner by Michael McGettigan. What design elements make Philadelphia unique?

October 10, 2012 | 2012 Festival

For the DesignPhiladelphia Festival guidebook this year, we asked four members of the design community to reflect on iconic design in the city – from places to objects. Michael McGettigan of Trophy Bikes writes about Washington Square.

Inside Corner

By Michael McGettigan

Philadelphia’s grid plan makes for lots of corners; it’s always a pleasure wondering what’s around that 90-degree bend. But sometimes you want a little something different. And in the heart of Philadelphia, you can find that urban rarity—the inside corner. Namely, where West Washington Square and South Washington Square meet. Usually you turn a corner—here, the corner turns around you.

The Farm Journal Building anchors a graceful curve and some plantings camouflage the place where the two walls meet. Pivot to feel the masonry rising up behind you—just high enough!, and calmly take in one of the great “rooms” of the world—Washington Square. The odd coziness makes Washington the most humane of Penn’s original squares, at least from this vantage point. Rittenhouse is defined by the towers around it; Logan by its vista down the Parkway; Franklin Square will always feel like a gateway, with the mighty Ben Franklin Bridge dominating its eastern border. Only Washington Square has your back — more like the squares embedded in older sections of London, Barcelona or other ancient towns. Edge in, close to where the walls connect and be simultaneously enclosed and free — gaze clear across to the Curtis Building and Walnut Street’s bustle. You can feel the city’s embrace. Michael McGettigan is the proprietor of Trophy Bikes University City and Trophy Bikes Northern Liberties/Philadelphia specialists in urban, commuting and touring cycles.


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