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Gapers Block published from April 22, 2003 to Jan. 1, 2016. The site will remain up in archive form. Please visit Third Coast Review, a new site by several GB alumni.
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Thursday, March 23

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Film Tue Dec 15 2009

Burnham and His Not-So-Little Plans

The centennial of Daniel Burnham's Plan of Chicago is coming to a close, and it wouldn't be complete without the first full-length feature of the man and his revolutionary vision for urban life.

Director and producer Judith Paine McBrien has compiles letters, official memos and Burnham's designs in Make No Little Plans: Daniel Burnham and the American City to present a portrait of his professional life from his birth in Upstate New York to his sudden death in 1912.

The film, narrated by Illinois native and Steppenwolf ensemble member Joan Allen, details the major players in Burnham's life and the events and circumstances that led him to conquer the 1893 World's Columbian Exposition and produce the impressive 1909 Plan of Chicago.

The film doesn't stray far from Burnham's professional life and doesn't provide much more insight than you could gain from a few hours on the Internet after reading Devil in the White City.

What is impressive about the film is the variety of ways it conveys Burnham's work and his legacy. We watch computer-generated models demonstrate how his 10-story skyscraper was different from anything that had been designed before; we visit contemporary Manila to experience the large parks he developed and see buildings in America that still stand; we read letters to his wife and his drawings as an eager young professional -- all of which culminate into a feeling of reading over his shoulder and watching him put his vision into action.

The film will premiere on WTTW Thursday, Dec. 17 at 8pm. The Burnham centennial is coming to a close and this film is a good way to look toward next year. We have heartily celebrated Burnham and his Plan of Chicago (regardless of what we have or have not implemented), but his real triumph was his unprecedented ability to transform the urban life and bring order to chaos. It begs the question of how we bring order to our chaotic city in this century.

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Architecture Tue Nov 03 2015

Paul Goldberger Describes the "Pragmatism and Poetry" of Frank Gehry's Architecture in His New Book

By Nancy Bishop

Architecture critic Paul Goldberger talks about Frank Gehry's life and work in a new book.
Read this feature »

Steve at the Movies Fri Jan 01 2016

Best Feature Films & Documentaries of 2015

By Steve Prokopy

Read this column »


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