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January 16, 2017

Philly municipal offices featured in The Atlantic's 'Americans at Work' photography series

Offices Work
Carroll - City Hall and Benjamin Franklin Parkway Thom Carroll/PhillyVoice

Philadelphia City Hall from the Parkway.

What better time than Monday to celebrate work? Thank God the weekend is over!

Right, but guess what? Inside the shining windows of all of these stony edifices are beautiful, multifaceted people who do things that either make (or are at least supposed to make) the lives of other people better, in addition to generating revenue.

Some of these people work for the city of Philadelphia, handling matters big and small, pressing and routine, that impact the lives of local residents. Ever wonder what goes on and what people joke about at the Registry of Wills or the Marriage Records Department? 

Just as entering the home of a new acquaintance is an interesting lesson in expression through design and a chance to see what people choose to own, walking into an unfamiliar workplace can tell you a lot about the culture of those spaces. Some people have this image of government buildings as sterile, bureaucratic factories of gloom, thanks in no small part to the fictional nightmare of Franz Kafka's Gregor Samsa, but people, that novella was published 102 years ago.

Things have changed, at least a little bit. If you're looking for proof, The Atlantic stopped by Philadelphia and took 27 photos of the city's municipal spaces for its "Americans at Work" series.

“When this project was first described to me as a look into the modern American office I thought of Philadelphia’s municipal offices because of the challenges American municipalities face in the 21st century," said photographer Ryan Collerd. "I also considered the history of these spaces and their diversity of design, aesthetics and how that affects the city employee. Philadelphia City Hall appears almost as a place of worship rather than a government building."

That's high praise for City Hall, which has also increasingly become a place for public gatherings and city-sponsored cultural events.

The best part is that Collerd found Philadelphia employees to be generally happy at work and proud of what they do, which, in the end, makes for much better weekends.