chicago, a hundred years since

So, if you didn't know it yet, Daniel Burnham created a plan for Manila before he even worked on Chicago, DC or San Francisco. Of course, we decided not to follow through with it.

Urbanophile lists down why the Burnham plan for Chicago was so successful and I think civic and business leaders back home should take notice.

Item #1 is:

It was a private sector, business led initiative. I hear people today moan about the feckless political leadership in their cities. But Chicago wasn't immune from this in the early 20th century. The rest of the civic leadership didn't wait around for the city politicians to get their act together. Rather, the Merchants Club of Chicago (which later merged with the Commercial Club, a still existing organization) stepped in and sponsored the creation of a plan that they saw as critical to overcoming the challenges the city faced at the time and propelling its future growth.

This is very relevant today. Most cities have some corporate/academic vehicle that is often a prime force in local initiatives. This is the logical place for such a civic strategy to be developed today. However, I might suggest that unlike in Burnham's day, having a broader stakeholder base is critical. Thus involving cultural institutions or other non-business groups, plus at least some form of broader community input is essential today. But I still think that it is generally the business community that is the likely sponsor for any plan.
It takes a lot of work but it produced a very powerful vision and a century later, Chicago is still realizing Burnham's plan.

From the balcony outside his war room, Burnham looked down on a thin strip of parkland that hugged Michigan Avenue. Beyond that, rail lines and sprawling freight yards separated the lake from the people. Plumes of smoke from steam engines cast a haze.

Stand on that balcony today and the extraordinary impact of the plan is revealed, from the Michigan Avenue Bridge on the north to the new skyline of condominium towers rising along Roosevelt Road on the south. The scene is one of order, symmetry and power. Navy Pier and the land bridge to the Adler Planetarium reach out like arms embracing the lake.

You are seeing what Burnham saw. Not the cramped, industrial view his eyes took in but the future he envisioned. People stroll where trains once ruled. A harbor teems with sailboats. Crowds gather for music festivals and skaters glide in front of an iconic sculpture that is becoming a symbol of Chicago. Formal gardens and a fountain modeled after Versailles celebrate this monumental meeting place of the Great Lakes and the Great Plains.

If we dare, can we look at Metro Manila today and imagine, just as Burnham did, the city a hundred years later. Can we envision our own future?


"Our cities are linked and they are learning"

Check out this SlideShare Presentation:


the street of the future is a livable street

This interactive graphic courtesy of GOOD Magazine.

"It’s easy to forget that our streets are alterable. They weren’t set down by God on the eighth day; they were designed by human beings. Unfortunately, throughout the 20th century, most of the human beings designing our streets were traffic engineers. For the most part, they viewed the city from behind a windshield and saw the street as a problem to be solved for automobiles. The result is the American city that most of us know today: sprawling, traffic-choked, hostile to pedestrians and cyclists, dependent on a vast, never-ending flow of cheap oil, and deeply unsustainable.

Streets can and must be more than just a place for the movement and storage of private motor vehicles. The urban street of the 21st century will be a “complete street,” accommodating pedestrians, cyclists, and transit riders alike. At the Livable Streets Initiative we are helping citizens re-envision streets as great public spaces. Take, for example, the busy intersection of Amsterdam Avenue and West 76th Street in Manhattan."

Yes, we can -Re-imagine Metro Manila's Streets.

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