“Not all who wander are lost.” - J. R. R. Tolkien
Wander the actual streets of San Francisco, Brooklyn and Barcelona as puzzle mazes! At Dirt Alley Design, artist Michelle Chandra transforms city street grids into a fun, interactive art print where you have to find your way to famous destinations such as San Francisco's Twin Peaks or Coney Island in Brooklyn!
The inspiration for creating puzzle mazes out of city street grids came when Michelle watched Mike Bostock's Visualizing Algorithms talk on maze generating algorithms at the 2014 Eyeo Festival.
A (Very) Short History of Mazes
The first mazes were labyrinths created 4,000 years ago. In medieval manuscripts, a labyrinth was oftentimes used to symbolize a city. Puzzle mazes were first created as garden hedge mazes in England such as the Hampton Court Maze. Since these early beginnings, puzzle mazes have been built around the world from maize, hay, stone and wood!
Designing a City Maze Art Print
Michelle creates each puzzle maze art print design by hand using the underlying street grid as the foundation. She begins the design process by downloading city street centerline data available in the public domain. Streets are removed and intersections modified to create paths you can get lost in.
Carving a maze design from a city grid, and drawing each road segment for the final design by hand, means a puzzle maze art print can take many hours of work to create. When a city maze art print is near completion, Michelle tests the city maze design with friends and family to make sure the puzzle maze is, well, puzzling!
The final posters are screen printed by hand on French Paper Co paper to create a unique art print made entirely in the USA.
About Dirt Alley Design
Michelle founded Dirt Alley Design just off a dirt alley in San Francisco in 2016. Dirt Alley Design's company name pays homage to San Francisco’s numerous dirt alleys.
Michelle creates art to show a different view of the mundane and the world we live in.
Michelle studied programming, data art and cartography at NYU's Interactive Telecommunications Program where she earned her Master's degree.
Her graduate work has been featured in many publications including the Daily Mail, the Washington Post, Engadget, Gizmodo, the Creator’s Project and the Weather Channel. See more of her work on her personal website.