10 
DANIEL BURNHAM ON CITIZENSHIP

It's all about living in a place where you feel you belong.

 

odd how Chicago has forgotten what citizenship meant to Daniel Burnham. Because he made clear its centrality to his thinking both in his Plan of Chicago and  while speaking to his most ardent supporters.

Chicago well remembers what Daniel Burnham had to say about the futility of making small plans and the value of making big ones. It remembers Burnham for Chicqgo's world-renowned 18-mile public lakefront.

But concept of citizenship that Burnham himself insisted was instrumental both to his proposal for a public lakefront and to the formulation of his Plan of Chicago itself.


Here, for instance, is what Burnham has to say about his reasons for creating a public lakefront when he spoke to some early supporters of his Plan at the Merchant's Club of Chicago in 1897: 

 

 

 

 

 

underling the physical infrastructure of his Plan - indeed, informing and inspiring it at every turn - was a fundamental concern with citizenship. 

We cherish Burnham for his success in connecting Chicagoans with the beauty of their natural surroundings be means of Chicago's splendid lakefront and its city parks and forest preserves.  But behind these successes was a concern with citizenship: with the importance of belonging to and being a valued member of a home city, or "state," as he put it in his argument for restoring Chicago's lakefront. This he made in an 1897 address to the Merchants' Club of Chicago, an early and vigorous supporter of his Plan:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Charles Moore's illuminating two-volume 1931 biography of Burnham beautifully articulates the importance of citizenship. It does so with an  overview of Burnham's address to the Merchants' Club that fully articulates the explicit, balanced and respectful sense of the relationship that can  and should exist between Chicago's "rich and powerful" and the "far larger portion of the community, on whom the city depends for its  greatness": 

 

 

 

 

 

                                                       

 

                                                       - Daniel Burnham, Architect, Planner of Cities, 

                                                          Charles Moore, 1931, Vol 1, pp. 102, 101

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A democracy dedicated to "the happiness of all the people secured by the well-directed action of the people themselves" to our mind is perfectly suited for a digital age where modern communications work to distribute citywide much of the power and authority that rested with industrial-age hierarchies. Is it possible that Chicago will lead the way in creating this kind of a democracy as all modern cities are reinventing themselves for viability media-driven digital  age?