by Diana Torres
Planning can be abstract, so the “My 2040” blog series aims to connect planning to real people throughout the region. To learn more about this series or to participate, please read more about the program.
Special thanks to Judith McBrien for taking the time to share her thoughts and ideas with CMAP staff. Judith McBrien is director of The Archimedia Workshop. For over 15 years she has written, directed, and produced programs about Chicago architecture for public television broadcast, as well as for a wide range of organizations concerned with the arts and environment, including the Art Institute of Chicago, the American Institute of Architects, the Frank Lloyd Wright Preservation Trust, and the Urban Land Institute. McBrien is also the author of the best-selling Pocket Guide to Chicago Architecture. She can be contacted directly at (312) 212-1492 or Judith@thearchmediaworkshop.org.
Setting the Stage for GO TO 2040
Judith McBrien’s passion for Chicago’s architecture has increased public understanding of Daniel Burnham’s impact as a city planner. In 2005, she began work on a documentary to explore Burnham’s life, and her timing was perfect. Initial planning efforts were already underway with The Burnham Plan Centennial, which celebrated the bold plans and big dreams of the Plan of Chicago that helped shape this region over the past 100 years. Four years later, McBrien and Mary Morrissette produced the feature film, Make No Little Plans: Daniel Burnham and the American City. The film was shown at Millennium Park as part of the Burnham Centennial celebration and will also be broadcast nationally on PBS this summer. The film serves as a great introductory tool to understanding the origins of urban planning through the life and accomplishments of Daniel Burnham and helps to set the stage for the GO TO 2040 plan.
In many ways, McBrien feels that her ‘community’ is the Daniel Burnham legacy. In this context, she shares one significant parallel between the Plan of Chicago and the current efforts of the CMAP’s GO TO 2040 plan: Regionalism. Regionalism was clearly on Burnham’s mind when he created his plan, as can be seen in the book’s illustrations. McBrien also observes how CMAP has adopted the notion that working together—with municipalities, elected officials, organizations and through issue areas—is vital to ensure a prosperous future. “CMAP inherited Burnham’s legacy, the way of thinking that we are not an island and that we have to work together,” McBrien says.
Continuing Burnham’s Legacies
There are two areas of Burnham’s work that need to be continued by CMAP, according to McBrien. First, Burnham’s goal to secure the lakefront and open spaces to be utilized by the public is also the “same as CMAP[‘s],” McBrien says. In many ways, the GO TO 2040 plan encourages the preservation of open space and use of greenways, trails and waterways throughout the region for use by residents. CMAP’s recently updated Northeastern Illinois Regional Greenways and Trails Plan envisions a network of stream- and land-based green corridors and almost 2,700 miles of existing and multi-use trails throughout the seven-county region. Second, Burnham’s emphasis on transportation networks is also a key aspect of GO TO 2040. McBrien states, “as for regional transportation networks [in the Plan of Chicago], they knew a century ago that freight lines should be consolidated, bringing goods in and out of the city. It’s still an issue today.” McBrien is correct—freight congestion will be addressed in the GO TO 2040 plan.
One of Burnham’s strengths was his understanding of connecting the City of Chicago to the greater region. McBrien shares that transportation is important, “not only for manufacturing [needs] but also [for creating] interstates and connections. [The planners of Burnham’s day] understood that outer rings and suburbs were important even though the plan was published in 1909 and there were not many cars.” At CMAP, the region’s transportation system is an essential component of residents’ quality of life, and the GO TO 2040 plan will make recommendations for public transportation, automobiles and highways, and other modes, including walking and bicycling.
A Public Effort
In terms of differences between the plans, McBrien points out that unlike the Plan of Chicago, the GO TO 2040 plan is being created with more public involvement. While the Plan of Chicago was written by a small group, CMAP incorporated public engagement efforts to increase the agency’s understanding of the region’s wants and needs for GO TO 2040. (For more details about the CMAP’s public engagement efforts related to GO TO 2040, read this press release.) McBrien also identifies that a few issues like housing and human services were not covered in the Plan of Chicago, though they will be in GO TO 2040. As CMAP forges into the next century of regional planning, McBrien sees how this agency is seizing the “opportunity to have great ideas from the planning professionals and grass-roots groups to reach out to all groups and communities to integrate into the plan.”
(Photos courtesy of Judith McBrien.) Read more about the "My 2040" series.