Want to see your borough drawn with a modernist retro look? Artist Mike Hall’s just finished mapping all 32 of the London boroughs using a beautiful, pared-back style.
Few people can say they’ve been down every major street in Greater London, but Mike Hall has… at least with his digital paintbrush. We first spoke to him a couple of years back, when he was still setting out on the 32 boroughs project. It’s now complete, with prints available, and an exhibition in Stoke Newington running until 31 January 2021. He’s even put the maps to popular vote, with Hackney winning a #WorldCupOfLondonBoroughs.
To mark the end of the project, we spoke to Mike about its genesis, and possible spin-offs.
“My idea of mapping all 32 boroughs of London goes back to 2011 when, as an aspiring (but struggling) freelance illustrator, I first realised the potential of maps, particularly of London, as a popular subject. I had already been living in London for about six years by that point since starting university, and I was reading a lot of websites and blogs at the time, including Londonist, but particularly Diamond Geezer’s blog. His enlightening series of posts exploring every borough of London in eccentric detail was the initial spark for this idea.
“I started by drawing the boroughs in a highly detailed and decorative neo-Victorian style. Whilst fun to draw, these took increasing amounts of time to produce as I became more and more fussy about the detail. After completing twelve of them I realised that it would take me many years to complete all 32 at the rate I was going, and so I decided to abandon the project. My preferred style of drawing had also moved on in the meantime; I became more interested in 20th century design, particularly clean, modernist design from the 1920s and 30s onwards.
“I parked the idea for a few years while I concentrated on commissioned work, then in late 2018 I decided to resurrect it, starting over from scratch. I knew that the boroughs came into existence in the mid-1960s and so decided to draw them in a style of that decade, entirely digitally using Adobe Illustrator, in a much simpler, almost minimalist style that crucially took much less time to complete, with a reduced colour palette and quantity of detail. I finally completed the 32nd borough — Hillingdon — in October 2020. They’ve proved to be more popular than my neo-Victorian style maps.”
Mike has big plans for the maps. They’ll be available as a full set in 2021, and he also has ambitions to turn them into a book — hopefully before the 60th anniversary of the London boroughs in 2025. He tells us that he’d like to do something similar for the traditional British counties, and also the provinces of Spain, where he currently lives.
Until then, you can get hold of individual prints of the London boroughs from Mike’s website.
Full disclosure: one of Mike’s other projects is to illustrate a book of fictional maps with Londonist editor-at-large Matt Brown, expanding the idea of Londonist’s Fake Britain map. It’ll be out in 2021.