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Burnham Plan of Chicago, and the Future of the American Metropolis

This is the last week for the Burnham Pavilions on display at Millennium Park in Chicago.  They were meant as temporary exhibits and with the coming onslaught of a Chicago winter, it’s probably time.  The Burnham Pavilions (see previous posts) were constructed to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Chicago Plan of 1909, sometimes referred to as the Burnham Plan, after one of its authors.

One final event was held last Friday, a roundtable discussion between Mayor Daley and Valerie Jarrett – currently Senior Advisor on Domestic Issues to President Obama, but formerly Mayor Daley’s Chief of Staff and even a Chairman of the Chicago Transit Authority at one point.  About 800 people – mostly invited – packed the Rubloff Theater at the Art Institute of Chicago on a cold and dreary Friday afternoon in October.  Where else could one draw a crowd like that but in Chicago?

Many of the attendees came from Chicago’s volunteer and charitable community – a setting unique for this city.  Chicago runs on volunteer help and organizations.

While there was a fair bit said about high speed rail funding and public transit in Chicago; there wasn’t a lot said overall about “grand picture” programs for the metropolis overall as an American entity. While many European and Asian countries have cities, the United States has the Metropolis. I’d argue that the Metropolis is distinctly American (this coming from a Canadian), and in danger of fall from a variety of sources: downfall of manufacturing, suburban flight…. There was a fair bit of discussion about social programs, however.

Upon exiting the reception afterwards, the sky was already dark, the Burnham Pavilions shone in their lighting, as did various buildings of the Chicago skyline that peeked out between the wings of the Art Institute.  I wish that my camera would focus in night time skies, Chicago truly showed itself off.  Chicago is the American Metropolis, located in the Midwest.

A reception will be held this week for the display of the entries to the Burnham Memorial Competition.  An Architect who interned under me years ago, Casimir Kujawa, submitted an entry that will be on display.

Posted in Community Organization, Current Affairs.