4.20.2009

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?




4 comments:

koikaze said...

I attended a concert in that park in the 1940's (Isn't it called Grant's Park?). I haven't been in downtown Chicago for many years. It sounds like I should get myself out there.

(If you can forgive a private interjection, my kids took some of the stuff I've written, made a book out of it, and gave it to me on my 80th birthday a couple of weeks ago. Now that they've gotten me off dead center, I'm adding some additional material and plan to have copies printed for each of them. It's time consuming ... but fun.)

Fred

Michael said...

How could we reverse the "mall culture" with regards to the urban planning in the Philippines? Even in the SkyscraperCity Philippine Forums, there's no specific thread dedicated to urban parks. Our cities have become very dense and we are not allocating areas for public parks. New York has the Central Park. LA has Griffith Park. We only have Luneta and the Ninoy Aquino Parks and Wildlife which pales in comparison.

Ayala is doing their share in building "green" malls, but they are cheating with regards to zoning and the FAR. Tower One cheated FAR and zoning by having a large atrium area, and there shouldn't even be a hi-rise in that area. They have re-zoned Bonifacio Global City by maximizing the land and using a grid layout. Greenbelt was a park before it was converted to a mall, adding a sky garden to GB5 to again make it "green".

I wonder if Ayala's Nuvali will really be a green city.

Is there a possibility that we could have a central park equivalent in Metro Manila, or Metro Cebu or Metro Davao?

Anonymous said...

the same thing is happening in baguio. the people who own these malls are not only cheating the zoning laws but taxation laws as well.

DISH ON DESIGN said...

Really, Manila came first? I always thought he just plonked the plan for Chicago on Manila's topography map...hmm, somebody taught us the wrong thing...but I'm reading Devil In The White City now, so I'm sure I'll learn a lot of new stuff...like, someone had said The Fountainhead was based on FLW, too, but it's looking more and more like Louis Sullivan!

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