Max Roberts

Great for finding your way to the architect’s many Windy City projects.

Frank Lloyd Wright once said that Chicago would eventually be “the most beautiful great city left in the world.” Never lacking in self-regard, Wright was surely influenced by the pleasure of seeing so many of his own buildings all over the Windy City. But for a man who, quite publicly, looked forward to the collapse of other high-density, industrial centers, this still counts as high praise.

So what if Wright were asked to design a Chicago subway map that could help millions of people without cars get to their favorite Wright projects? British cartographer Max Roberts recently posed himself that challenge.

Embracing Wright’s love of Arts and Crafts typography and “Tree of Life” stained-glass windows, Roberts has done his best to reimagine the CTA’s ‘L’ diagram true to the architect’s style.

(Max Roberts)

“Of all the cities in America with major rail transit systems, Chicago probably has the strictest grid structure, and the ‘L’ lines reflect that,” says Roberts. “In a way,” he adds, “it reminds me of Frank Lloyd Wright's work, organized and yet never perfectly regular.”

A fan of Wright’s Prairie Houses, Roberts uses eight different Tree of Life patterns, each one with a different color, to represent the CTA’s color-coded diagram. Square sections of the window patterns vary along each line for subtle variety and a more attractive Loop diagram.

(Max Roberts)

It took Roberts many attempts before finding a design he’s happy with. “I reached ‘Plan H’ before I could see it was beginning to work,” the map enthusiast tells CityLab.

Roberts, who is always looking for ways to reimagine a subway map, has become intrigued by the idea of taking famous artists and applying their style to a city they’re most associated with. Earlier this year, he made a Glasgow subway map in the style of Charles Rennie Mackintosh.

About the Author

Most Popular

  1. A view of traffic near Los Angeles.
    Transportation

    How Cars Divide America

    Car dependence not only reduces our quality of life, it’s a crucial factor in America’s economic and political divisions.

  2. Equity

    CityLab University: Inclusionary Zoning

    You’ve seen the term. But do you really know what it means? Here’s your essential primer.

  3. Equity

    Bike Advocacy’s Blind Spot

    The biking community is overwhelmingly concerned with infrastructure. For urban anthropologist Adonia Lugo, that's an equity problem.

  4. A child plays in a city-sanctioned encampment for homeless families in San Diego.
    Equity

    A Family Dispute: Who Counts As Homeless?

    A bill designed to expand HUD’s recognition of homelessness reveals a split between advocates on who counts as the most vulnerable population.

  5. Equity

    The ‘War on Poverty’ Isn’t Over, and Kids Are Losing

    Federal spending on America’s children is heading down, and the drop in funding could be dramatic.