For 40 years, Michael Chesko
has been mapping the country
of his dreams. By Robyn Miller
Michael Chesko is building a country. As it urns out, this sort of thing takes roughly a lifetime. He began conceptualizing and
mapping it in junior high school, and today at age
51 the Mesa, Ariz., father of five boys says his
country, as yet unnamed, is “still in progress, it is
indeed something I may never finish.” How could it
be otherwise when, after all, his nation is roughly
half the size of Australia?
He calls this country his magnum opus. Every
border, boulevard, city, street, and structure: it’s all
there. Rolls and rolls of maps, models, and flags, all
of which have been shoved away into closets.
Astonishingly, the only people to ever get a peep
of his dusty republic have been Chesko’s friends
and family. He is honestly bewildered and, I think,
thrilled when I express interest in his masterwork.
As if I’ve pulled a plug on something bottled up
since 1970, he sends me map after map — a mere
sampling of the hundreds that constitute his world,
each one minutely rendered and congested with
Photography by Michael Chesko
I would be remiss if I didn’t mention Chesko’s
unparalleled megalopolis: Britannica. With boyish
pride, he boasts of its vastness: “I have drawn more
streets and freeways for Britannica than the whole
Los Angeles metropolitan area has in reality.” He
knows it’s true because he diligently copied L.A.
maps to the same scale and spliced them together,
“and Britannica is considerably larger.” This must
have been no small task; the Britannica maps, when
laid across Chesko’s carpet, gobble up an obscene
portion of his living room.
The obvious question, about all these years of
masterminding the layout of a nation, is why? Is
it hobby? Art? Obsession? Why spend 40 years
working on a world that may never be completed?
Chesko says that finishing is beside the point:
46 Make: Volume 20
NATION BUILDER: Chesko drew this early map of
Britannica at ages 13–14. Lately, he’s been sculpting
the city’s downtown, aka Proto Britannica. He’s also
sewn 12 flags for his imaginary country’s districts.
the fun is to imagine, to build, to perfect, and finally,
to visualize himself within his creation.
“Britannica is a playground for my avatar, my
fantasy self,” he explains. “I go there and I live there.
I walk around its streets and I experience it in every
way I care to imagine. ... It is the pursuit to perfect
this experience that drives me.”
To see Michael Chesko’s incredible carvings of
Manhattan, visit makezine.com/go/chesko.
Robyn Miller is obsessed with miniatures. He also enjoys
occasionally painting, writing music, and directing video