Philadelphia-based illustrator Mario Zucca has a dual passion for map-making and Rust Belt cities.
Those passions have converged in his latest work, a playful and meticulously detailed map of the Buffalo area that integrates nearly every point of Buffalo pride imaginable into the flat landscape of Western New York.
Mighty Taco? Check.
Shark Girl? Check.
A 2,000-foot version of Tim Horton astride the Hotel Lafayette like some Canadian colossus? Check.
Also: Sahlen's, Caz Park, Flying Bison, Talking Leaves, the Broadway Market, Community Beer Works, Five Points Bakery, Lucky's Texas Hots and the Edward M. Cotter fireboat.
Even the Brutalist Buffalo News building makes an appearance, sandwiched between Mazurek's Bakery and the newly renamed KeyBank Center (although reference to the Bills' home turf still says Ralph Wilson Stadium instead of New Era Field).
The map is the fourth in Zucca's series of city-based map illustration projects, which he began about two years ago with a detailed map of his adopted city of Philadelphia. Maps of Pittsburgh and Portland soon followed.
Zucca, a prolific illustrator with work in publications including The New York Times, New York Magazine, Newsweek, the National Football League, said he chose Buffalo "because, being from Pittsburgh originally, I have an affinity for the blue-collar rust belt cities, and the people there tend to have a lot of city pride."
He's not wrong.
Shortly after completing the map, Zucca talked with The News about his inspiration for the project, his trademark style as an illustrator and the reaction to his maps on Reddit.
Q: Why did you set out to create this series of city-based illustrations?
A: It wasn't until a couple years ago, when an illustrator I know did a really fun illustrated map of Brooklyn, that it struck me to make a map of my city, Philadelphia, in my own style and sell it as a print. His map was definitely the impetus for doing Philly and the three subsequent city maps– Pittsburgh, Portland, Buffalo – and turning them into large-format prints.
Q: Tell me a bit about the style you settled on for the map.
A: In my commission work I tend to do a lot of crowded, busy scenes with lots of little narratives throughout, so applying the same mentality to maps just made sense. From the outset, I wanted the images to fall somewhere between a decorative piece of art and a literal map, so I always try to walk a line between being accurate vs. taking liberties with scale and location for the sake of the overall layout.
Q: What was the research process like -- how much time did you spend in Buffalo and how did you decide which landmarks and personalities to include?
A: I've only actually been to Buffalo once. My wife and I traveled there last winter to scope it out and do some research. Being there in person helped immensely. I was able to walk or drive to most of the landmarks I wanted to see and take a ton of photos. Things like Shark Girl and the Tim Horton statue probably wouldn't have made it into the map had I not stumbled onto them in person. Aside from that, I relied a lot on Google Maps, TripAdvisor, and the advice of some Buffalonian friends of mine.
Q: What has the feedback from your other city maps been like?
A: Very positive for the most part. People on Reddit tend to be my harshest critics. They like to point out every inconsistency and landmark I forgot. However, for every person who takes the maps overly literally, there's usually a person to point out that there's also not a 2000-foot hockey player next to the Pierce Arrow Museum. Otherwise, people seem to enjoy them. It's actually made its way into my professional work, as many of the assignments I've been getting lately have been map-related. That wasn't the intended result, but it's certainly a welcomed side effect!
Zucca's Buffalo map is available via his website, mariozucca.com.