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 photo-illustration of several big-box retail stores.
    Equity

    After the Retail Apocalypse, Prepare for the Property Tax Meltdown

    Big-box retailers nationwide are slashing their property taxes through a legal loophole known as "dark store theory." For the towns that rely on that revenue, this could be a disaster.

  2. Equity

    Housing Can’t Be Both Affordable and a Good Investment

    The two pillars of American housing policy are fundamentally at odds.

  3. A photo of protesters carrying anti-Amazon posters during a rally and press conference in NYC.
    Amazon HQ2

    Amazon’s HQ2 Decision Was Always About Transit

    In the end, New York’s MTA and D.C.’s Metro were the only transportation networks capable of handling such an influx of new residents. But both cities will have some work to do.

  4. A man wears a mask with the likeness of French president Emmanuel Macron as people take part in the nationwide "Yellow Vest" demonstrations, a symbol of a French drivers' protest against higher fuel prices, in Haulchin, France.
    Equity

    Why Drivers Are Leading a Protest Movement Across France

    The rapidly developing “Yellow Vest” movement took over streets and highways to oppose rising gas and diesel taxes. It might also be a proxy for frustrations about rising costs and falling living standards.

  5. A photo of a mural in Tulsa, Oklahoma.
    Life

    Stop Complaining About Your Rent and Move to Tulsa, Suggests Tulsa

    In an effort to beef up the city’s tech workforce, the George Kaiser Family Foundation is offering $10,000, free rent, and other perks to remote workers who move to Tulsa for a year.