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David Woodhouse Wins Burnham Memorial Competition

July 8, 2009

By Mae Ryan

Today, the AIA Chicago Foundation announced that David Woodhouse Architects (DWA), a Chicago-based firm known for its elegant design of public spaces, has won a competition to create a memorial for Daniel Burnham.

David Woodhouse Architects was named the winner of a competition to design a Daniel Burnham memorial in Chicago.
Image courtesy David Woodhouse Architects (top); James Steinkamp, Steinkamp Photography (bottom)
David Woodhouse Architects was named the winner of a competition to design a Daniel Burnham memorial in Chicago.
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The project is part of the Burnham Plan Centennial Celebration honoring the legacy of Burnham and his 1909 Plan of Chicago, the first comprehensive planning document guiding the growth of an American city. While the memorial still needs public approval, it is slated to be built on Chicago’s Museum Campus, just north of Burnham’s Field Museum.

The competition began in February, when the AIA Chicago Foundation invited 20 architects to submit proposals. In April the jury selected three finalists—DWA, Hoerr Schaudt, and Sasaki Associates, Inc.—and asked them to present final schemes.

In early July, the jury unanimously selected DWA’s proposal. Lauding the design, one juror noted that “it has elegance, simplicity and, in the end, it’s a modern solution. It almost looks evitable. It’s that appropriate to the site.”

Woodhouse’s scheme is composed of three major elements—a Corner, Overlook, and Lawn. The Corner comprises two walls that come together at a right angle and depict major elements of Burnham’s downtown city plan. The Overlook is a long plinth of gray granite that supports three-dimensional maps and models of the city’s evolution—from undisturbed prairies to Burnham’s city plan and ahead to the 2016 Olympics (assuming Chicago wins the bid to host the Summer Games).

These structures are positioned on a lawn that gently slopes down to Lake Michigan and offers views of the Chicago skyline. Visitors to the site “are immediately confronted with the stunning view of the Plan’s handiwork – Grant Park meeting Lake Michigan, with the city’s center beyond,” explains David Woodhouse, FAIA.

The competition was privately funded by the Richard H. Driehaus Charitable Lead Trust and overseen by the AIA Chicago Foundation. Construction of the project will be privately financed, and fundraising efforts will commence after public approval of the design.

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