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 of a woman on a SkyTrain car its way to the airport in Vancouver, British Columbia.
    Transportation

    In the City That Ride-Hailing Forgot, Change Is Coming

    Fears of congestion and a powerful taxi lobby have long kept ride-hailing apps out of this transit-friendly British Columbia city. That’s about to change.  

  2. A man rides an electric scooter in Los Angeles.
    Perspective

    Why Do City Dwellers Love to Hate Scooters?

    Electric scooters draw a lot of hate, but if supported well by cities, they have the potential to provide a widespread and beneficial mode of transportation.

  3. Life

    American Migration Patterns Should Terrify the GOP

    Millennial movers have hastened the growth of left-leaning metros in southern red states such as Texas, Arizona, and Georgia. It could be the biggest political story of the 2020s.

  4. A photo of a man along a walkway near a beach in Barcelona.
    Transportation

    The Life-Saving Benefits of Barcelona’s Car-Free ‘Superblocks’

    A new study estimates that a citywide plan to limit cars and capture nearly 70 percent of street space for bikes and pedestrians could save 667 lives per year.

  5. a map comparing the sizes of several cities
    Maps

    The Commuting Principle That Shaped Urban History

    From ancient Rome to modern Atlanta, the shape of cities has been defined by the technologies that allow commuters to get to work in about 30 minutes.

×