Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Daniel Burnham’s Enduring Vision for the Philippines

Daniel Burnham Exhibit at City Gallery
September 4, 2009 – December 2009

An exhibition of photographs, Daniel Burnham’s Enduring Vision for the Philippines, opens at City Gallery on September 4, 2009. Architectural and landscape photographer Tim Long started this project in 2007 and completed shooting in a month long stay in 2008. The photographs delve into the rift created by the United States ambition to create a democratic state in a vastly distant and different culture.

In 1904 the United States government sent Daniel Burnham, a prominent Chicago architect and city planner, to the Philippine Islands to modernize the capitol city and a second smaller city to be used as the summer capitol. Plans were drawn for Manila and Baguio and building began. And though shifting political and economic interests in the U.S. eventually disrupted the projects, Burnham’s plans continued to exert an influence on architects and city planners, even building codes, well into the 1940s.

The greatest concentration of Burnham’s legacy can still be found in the tumultuous landscape of Metro-Manila, an urban continuum of over 10 million people. Clustered around a large city park designed by Burnham in an old section of the city are several graceful Beaux Arts buildings designed by Burnham protégés. Street systems typical of Burnham’s “City Beautiful” plans used in Washington, DC and Chicago emanate outward from the park to eventually fade into the fabric of a remarkably chaotic urban landscape.

Burnham in the Philippines: The Philippine Republic is generally considered to be an abject failure in terms of their democratic institutions, a notion made vivid by the Marcos era. It struck me then to learn that the U.S. government hired Daniel Burnham in 1905 to draw plans for two cities in the Philippines and though never completed, the plans were partly built and are still standing. I wondered how these buildings and streetscapes would look a hundred plus years later in Metro Manila, a megalopolis of over 11 million. It was easy to imagine a tense interplay between history, our two cultures and the architectural forms that represent them.


WHEN: September 4, 2009 – December 2009

WHERE: Columbia College Chicago’s City Gallery
806 N. Michigan Ave.

This project is funded in part by a grant from the Graham Foundation for the Fine Arts.


viv mackie said...

Thanks for giving me the link to your blog, when you found my article on Burnham's plan.
This is very interesting and I will follow your blog now. We live in Champaign-Urbana, but love to visit Chicago and enjoy all the wonderful exhibitions available.
Did you see the special exhibition about art inspired fro Obama? I also wrote about that.

CHICAGOandPointsNorth said...

Glad to pick up the link to your Blog at ArchitectureChicago Plus. Daniel Burnham was accompanied to Manila by Peirce Anderson -- whose work I've been featuring at Thanks for the post.

Lin said...

Here is a link to an article on about the current conditions in Manila that discusses the remnants of Burnham's vision.

Lin said...

It is called Manila: The City That Might Have Been
This link? Maybe better

Maricar Dabao said...

Daniel Burnham also designed the Provincial Capitol Bldg. of Negros Occidental, in Bacolod City, Philippines. I am doing a research on the building and came across Daniel Burnham's name as I am working on to be an accredited tour guide for my province.