John Metcalfe was CityLab’s Bay Area bureau chief, covering climate change and the science of cities.
It took illustrator Jenni Sparks three months to finish this secret-laden cartography.
For London's Jenni Sparks, it can take months to make a city map. And that's just the planning process, in which the 25-year-old illustrator roams around checking out corners, snapping photos, watching documentaries, and interviewing locals.
When she is ready to start putting in 10-hour days of drawing, it can still be ages before she finishes—or three months more in the case of this fantastic, crazily detailed map of San Francisco. Her devotion to cramming cartography with every facet of a city's personality, including references only locals would get ("Karl the Fog"?), guarantees that viewers can peruse it for hours and have new stuff to discover the next day.
Like her previous documentations of New York, Berlin, and London, Sparks made this map in collaboration with British brand Evermade. She hasn't altered her style of a writhing sea of buildings and landmarks streaked with funky-font place names; in nice touches, Haight-Ashbury gets the typography of a groovy, '60s-era record cover and "Hippie Hill" in Golden Gate Park seems to be emitting psychedelic pot waves. The BART and Caltrain systems pop as rainbow-colored arteries, though the Muni is invisible.
Despite having lived in the Bay Area for a while, I was surprised to note the existence of a tiny, 10-gallon beer brewery inside someone's house, a 1950s pet cemetery in the Presidio, and a "New Orleans Jazz Club" that stages dixieland concerts around the region. If Sparks ever puts her map-maker career on hold, she'd make a stellar tour guide. Here are a few zooms of the map; a physical copy is available here as a 24-inch print:
And here's an interview with Sparks that gets into her feelings toward San Francisco:
H/t Transit Maps