The Burnham Plan Centennial Opening Events Reception

A reception and concert was held on Friday, June 19 in Chicago to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Burnham Plan for the City of Chicago.  These events coincided with the opening of two Millennium Park pavilions that capture the essence of the Burnham Plan of 1909, and marked the start of an entire season of cultural events and presentations.

The Burnham Plan was visionary.  It envisioned a prairie metropolis with public lakeshore and efficient transit; with sustainable growth and economic muscle. It spawned the now famous phrase “..make no small plans..”

Before heading into the reception, I took a quick peak at the two pavilions, located on the opposite side of the Jay Pritzker Pavilion; the Frank Gehry designed bandshell and open air theatre.

Burnham Pavilion, UNStudio, Amsterdam
Burnham Pavilion, UNStudio, Amsterdam

The rectilinear pavilion designed by Amsterdam Architect  Ben van Berkel of UNStudio is a created slot of air and sky. People could wander through the square pavilion with its diagonal pilotis gracefully piercing through a solid sky of painted surface.  The upward floor lights of changing colour reinforced the experience.

Foreground: Burnham Pavilion, UNStudio, Amsterdam.  Background: Burnham Pavilion, Zaha Hadid, London
Foreground: Burnham Pavilion, UNStudio, Amsterdam. Background: Burnham Pavilion, Zaha Hadid, London

The oblong pavilion design by London Architect Zaha Hadid was an ambitious ‘clam’ of fluid space.  Its tenuous frame sat adroitly at the site, waiting for its fabric skin.  “ was a bit more complicated than originally thought…” was a comment heard.  When finished, a multimedia presentation displayed on the fabric would give a never-ending show of Chicago.

Burnham pavilion, Zaha Hadid, London
Burnham Pavilion, Zaha Hadid, London

Both pavilions presented strong, though concepts of “sky” – an important feature in a prairie city.

At the reception, civic officials and leaders, history aficionados and those who work to carry on the Burnham Plan were in attendance, under a mammoth tent erected just behind the new Harris Theater on Randolph Street.  How a kid from the Canadian Prairies could ever wind up in an event like this is beyond me though not up for question.  I renewed several contacts connected with Great Chicago Places and Spaces, and discussed potential format changes for next year.  I also had the chance to tell the visiting Oak Park municipal delegation about my Secret Streets of the Loop presentation, and the concept behind those streets.

In a completely separate conversation, one said “..I’m off to an event with air conditioning..”, it was rather sticky weather, though many times I’m just a bit intolerant of weather like, my internal thermostat seems permanently stuck on the high plains.  The Chicago Loop had been hit by a nasty rain storm earlier, at noon; it left everything humid under a dark sky.  As the crowd was being ushered towards the Pritzker Pavilion, rain ponchos were being handed out as good hostess favours.  Perhaps a telling omen.