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Daniel Burnham, Urban Visionary

By the mid-1880s, Burnham and other young Chicago visionaries believed that while Chicago's cyclonic, unregulated economic growth had made it the master city of the mid-continent it was also creating massive environmental and social problems that threatened the habitability of many parts of the city. Burnham believed that it was time for a citywide effort to tame its most destructive impulses through enlightened urban planning and inspired civic architecture. Burnham's effort to create an urban community that balances order and freedom, growth and control, capitalism and community still resonates today. We are now at a point in our development as a nation where we can learn important lessons from the civic debate that Burnham inspired about the costs and benefits of unregulated capitalism.

Donald L. Miller is the John Henry MacCracken Professor of History at Lafayette College and author of the prize-winning, best-seller, City of the Century, The Epic of Chicago and the Making of Modern America. For more information and insight on Daniel Burnham and how his ideas influenced the region, explore Chicago Public Radio's coverage as part of the year-long series, Chicago Matters: Beyond Burnham.


Recorded Wednesday, June 17, 2009 at Chicago Architecture Foundation.


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