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Competition: Burnham 20/20

Burnhamplanofchicago civiccenterplaza julesguerin
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The Chicago Architectural Club has announced an international ideas contest to reimagine the city’s iconic 1909 Burnham Plan

The competition invites architects, landscape architects, urban designers and students to conceptualise a ‘more human’ Chicago based on the influential vision drawn up at the turn of the century by Daniel Burnham and Edward H Bennett for the Midwestern city, which at the time was one of the fastest-growing in the world.

The anonymous call for concepts, supported by AIA Chicago, aims to generate new debate around the exquisitely-illustrated utopian document, which called for ambitious lakefront improvements, a regional highway system, improvements to existing railway terminals, new outer city parks, a rationalisation of streets, and new planned civic and cultural quarters.

According to the brief: ‘This competition aims to explore the social agenda supporting Burnham’s vision, which he addressed in his draft of the plan and which included issues such as the enhancement of public space and the promotion of neighbourhood schools and day care centres. Burnham’s intended vision was “Not the beautification of the city, but it’s humanization.”

‘For the 2020 Burnham Prize, the Chicago Architectural Club is calling for new visions that address the humanization of our city. Looking at Chicago’s future and reflecting on today’s challenges, formulate your interpretation of the Burnham Plan that expresses the needs of our time. Through a project, series of projects or a larger plan, define one or more elements that address current urban issues and that are able to contribute to the design of a more “human” city.’

Chicago is the third most populous city in the United States and most populous settlement in the state of Illinois. The city overlooking Lake Michigan grew rapidly during the 19th and early 20th centuries and played a leading role in debates around urban development around the world.

In recent decades however Chicago has witnessed population decline which has been caused, according to the brief, by ‘several social, economic, and political factors, such as high taxes, access to high-quality education and housing, crime, segregation, and social and racial inequality.’

Other issues affecting the settlement include ‘water and air pollution, climate change, and the current health emergency due to the Covid-19 pandemic.’ The latest competition invites participants to radically rethink the city in response to ideas contained within the 1909 Burnham Plan.

Commissioned by the Commercial Club of Chicago, the document played an important role in reshaping the centre of the city but was only partially realised. Many of its most utopian and ambitious public spaces exist today only in the book’s illustrations.

Submissions to the contest should feature up to four display boards, a 250-word project description and a single page featuring team details. Applications cost $75 ($30 for students) before 22 May and $90 ($50 for students) before 19 June.

The jury, expected to feature ‘notable professionals, academics, and public officials,’ has yet to be announced. The overall winner, due to be announced in September, will receive $1,500. A second prize of $1,000 and third prize of $500 will also be awarded.

The final deadline for registration is 19 June and submissions must be completed by 3 July.

How to apply

Visit the competition website for more information

Contact details

Email: competitionentries@chicagoarchitecturalclub.org

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