April 17, 2009
  Three Finalists Chosen in Burnham Memorial Design Competition

by Russell Boniface
Associate Editor

How do you . . . hold a design competition to honor the father of urban planning?

Summary: Three conceptual designs for a new memorial planned for Grant Park in Chicago are in the final phase of a competition launched to celebrate Daniel Burnham, urban planner of Chicago. The competition is a partnership of the AIA Chicago Foundation; the Richard H. Driehaus Charitable Lead Trust, which is the major founder of the competition; and The Field Museum, part of the Museum Campus on Chicago’s Lake Shore Drive. The competition is endorsed by the City of Chicago and the Chicago Park District. The competition, six years in development, is part of the Burnham Plan Centennial Celebration honoring the legacy of Daniel Burnham and his fellow architect Edward Bennett's Plan of Chicago. The design competition is led by the Burnham Memorial Design Competition Committee.

"Make no little plans. They have no magic to stir men's blood … make big plans, aim high in hope and work.”—Daniel Burnham

The Burnham Memorial Design Competition Committee consists largely of AIA Chicago members who serve on its urban design knowledge community. It is also composed of an extensive network of community agencies and members, including a former commissioner of the Chicago Planning Department. The Burnham Memorial Competition Committee has proposed to build the memorial to educate and honor Daniel Burnham’s memory and his Plan of Chicago, co-authored with Bennett.

Lakefront memorial; three finalists
The proposed site for the memorial is the northern end of Burnham Park, overlooking Chicago and adjacent to Lake Michigan on the Museum Campus off Lake Shore Drive. When complete, the memorial would sit in front of the classical Field Museum. The construction of the Memorial is to be funded through private donations and sponsorships.

Twenty firms submitted conceptual designs for the Memorial, with three finalists selected mid-April by a national jury of distinguished professionals in architecture, the arts, landscape architecture, and planning. The finalists are David Woodhouse Architects of Chicago, Hoerr Schaudt of Chicago, and Boston-based Sasaki Associates. The three finalists have approximately nine weeks to fine-tune their concepts and are scheduled to present their plans for the memorial before the jury in early June. The winning design, along with all of the conceptual designs submitted, will be unveiled later that month. A model will be created from the winning design.

Honoring Daniel Burhnam and the Plan of Chicago
“Many Chicago organizations are participating in the Burnham Plan Centennial Celebration, so it seemed like a natural fit for architects to do a design competition,” says AIA Chicago executive director Zurich Esposito. The Burnham Memorial Competition Committee met with the City of Chicago and the Chicago Park District to explore a variety of sites for the winning design. The site offered has historic presence and presents beautiful views. “It is a visible site directly to the northeast of the Field Museum,” notes Esposito. “It is a wonderful lakefront site in front of one of the most beautiful buildings by Daniel Burnham in the city.”

Fred Brandstrader, AIA, vice pesident of construction at Pyramid Project Management, LLC, is the chair of the Burnham Memorial Design Competition Committee. Brandstrader says the memorial will honor the career, achievements, and person of Daniel Burnham, as well as commemorate the Plan of Chicago. “This was spurred on back in 2002 with the notion of the centennial celebration of the Plan of Chicago,” he recalls. “We wanted to get our organizations together, as community and civic activists, to commemorate the event. It grew into a gigantic network of public, private, and nonprofit groups.”

AIA Chicago was one of the founding entities. “We felt Daniel Burnham deserved to have a memorial that the public can learn from and experience 24 hours a day, 365 days a year,” Brandstrader says. “What better place to do it than the northern end of Burnham park, overlooking Chicago, adjacent to the lake and adjacent to Grant Park: All key elements to his Plan of Chicago. The hope is that the memorial would enhance this little grass nook and become a nice interactive space that complements the museum campus and gives people a connection who are coming down from the lakefront. It will have pedestrian sightlines, and people will see it from Lake Shore Drive and the harbor.”

The Plan of Chicago was an extensive document, Brandstrader points out. “It not only talked about urban planning with maps and layouts, it also went into social and civic philosophies and institutions that impacted schools and health care. It is represented by the agencies involved in this celebration.”

Comparison drawn to the FDR Memorial
Brandstrader says that the thinking among committee members is to have a design with the impact of the FDR Memorial in Washington, D.C. “A place where the built space is educational and memorial all wrapped in one,” he says. “It may not become the scale of the FDR Memorial, but we want the same type of experience one gets at the FDR Memorial. We want something that you can walk through and experience.”

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The Burnham Memorial Competition Jury includes:
• Gia Biagi, director of planning and development for the Chicago Park District
• Howard Decker, project director of Ehrenkrantz Eckstut & Kuhn (EE&K) in Washington
• George Hargreaves, design director of Hargreaves Associates
• Tony Jones, professor and chancellor of The School of the Art Institute in Chicago
• Douglas Kelbaugh, FAIA, professor of Architecture and Urban Planning at the University of Michigan A. Alfred Taubman School of Architecture
• Dr. Kristen Schaffer, an expert on • Daniel Burnham and the Plan of Chicago and the author of Daniel H. Burnham: Visionary Architect and Planner
• Michael Vergason, president of Michael Vergason Landscape Architects, Ltd. in Alexandria, Va.

Three other proposed concepts were recognized by the jury with Honorable Mentions: John Ronan Architects and Hammond Beeby Rupert Ainge, both of Chicago, and Peter Walker & Partners of Berkeley.

Click here for details about the Burnham Memorial Design Competition.