No Little Plans II

We dream of an economically vibrant and environmentally healthy region; one whose concentrated areas of activity enable people of complementary talents to achieve high levels of creativity and productivity; a region where all persons have ready access to jobs; to housing near their jobs, and to good schools and job training; a region in which people are enabled and encouraged to find nourishment in a diversity and complexity of persons, interests, and tastes, and to enjoy an exciting array of cultural, recreational, and intellectual opportunities; and, most important, a region that undergirds strong neighborhoods, communities, and families so that they are enabled to nurture the intellectual, moral, and social development of children.
Chicago Metropolis 2020

Well.
Chicago Metropolis 2020 is the successor to Daniel Burnham’s 1906 Plan of Chicago.  (see No Little Plans I) Both were sponsored by the Commercial Club of Chicago. But contrast the above statement to Burnham’s famous “Make no little plans, they have no power to stir men’s blood,” and you will start to understand how they are different—and how they are similar.

The above quotation sounds like it was written by committee. It was. Six committees actually, within the club, informed by innumerable other committees, companies, policy groups, etc, that take three more pages to list in the acknowledgments. Such is our diverse urban life these days. (BTW, there is an online version of the document as well, quite different.)

Burnham, in his day only had to worry about stirring the blood of men, and you can bet they were all white men as well, property owners and from western Europe. I doubt that the hoards of immigrants pouring in from Hungary, Poland, Lithuania, and a dozen other countries that fueled the engines of industry were asked what they thought, although they were very much supposed to be the beneficiaries of Burnham’s concern about green space and slums.

And who is supposed to be stirred by our contemporary committees?  Leafing through the book gives a quick impression.


Lots of cute little kids. The study addresses the issues of “public education and child care, transportation, land use and housing, governance and taxation, and economic well-being”, but it’s pretty clear the intended audience is a diverse one.

Here’s an idea of the type of graphics used.  Quite different from the uniform pastels of the Burnham Plan.



And what about Burnham’s encircling parks and green spaces? In the back of the book, almost as an afterthought, is a five page description of how an “intermodal village center” might work in the Chicago suburbs, based on the protected “green heart” area in the middle of four major Dutch cities. I always like these conceptual drawings in the back of urban planning books, they seem like they might spur much creative thought.

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