The Pierre L'Enfant Plan for Washington, D.C. was created and adopted in the early 1790s, and implemented in fits and starts before its most prominent design ideas over the course of the 19th century gradually were abandoned to whimsy and circumstance, and effectively obscured. 110 years later, under the auspices of the Senate Park Commission (aka The McMillan Commission), a group of classical architects including Daniel Burnham of Chicago re-engaged and extended the design intentions of the L'Enfant Plan. The result today ---almost 225 years after L'Enfant's original plan--- is America's monumental national capital of grand public buildings, civic memorials, and The National Mall, revered meeting place for political rallies, acts of commemoration, and our most solemn ceremonies of American civil religion.
At the much larger scale of metropolitan Chicago, the Plan of Chicago by Daniel Burnham and Edward Bennett (aka ‘The Burnham Plan’) was published in 1909. It too was adopted in fits and starts before many of its most prominent design ideas over the course of the 20th century were obscured and gradually abandoned. The Burnham Plan fell victim first to historical circumstances (depression and war), but eventually to a cultural ideology of infinite expansion, an architectural ideology of novelty-as-authenticity, and a built environment organized around the automobile.
Chicago 2109 aerial view of proposed historic center looking east (right)
Now, a little more than 100 years after the publication of the Plan of Chicago, a small group of classical humanist architects and urban designers from the University of Notre Dame is re-engaging The Burnham Plan. We do so intending to critique today’s hyper-modern city generally, but foremost to envision metropolitan Chicago 100 years forward as a great urban-agrarian entity imagined as part of a long and large classical humanist urban tradition --- a tradition we share with Daniel Burnham, Pierre L’Enfant, and their own forebears back to Augustine, Vitruvius, and Aristotle. Our project is called: