Daniel Burnham’s “Make No Little Plans”

chicagoThe Metropolitan Planning Council of Chicago conducted a Placemaking 101 seminar at their offices in the Marquette Building in the Loop. Peter Skosey, Vice President of MPC, briefly introduced us to the Placemaking approach.

He then gave the lead to Kara Riggio, a MPC associate. She presented how Placemaking is a “people-centered” approach. People define our spaces of today, whether it is a municipal infrastructure or a natural environmental surrounding.

We broke out into groups for a case study scenario on the Federal Plaza. Our groups took a walk outside, documented the area with photos and surveys. We then developed an activation strategy for the site via MPC Placemaking tools and guidelines, including Project for Public Spaces .

MPC has partnered with non profits and non governmental organizations including PPS and Groupon Grassroots Crowd-Funding.  Nicholas Gauna, Campaign Manager, spoke out to us about setting up and running a crowd-funding campaign online.   Following the presentation and case study scenarios, we voluntarily decided to join and participate in the 2014 Old Place New Tricks Placemaking Challenge. For those participants entering, we were given a free webpage powered by EveryBlock. The webpage process was demonstrated online by MPC Assistant Communications Director, Ryan Griffin-Stegnik. 

Daniel Burnham, the visionary behind all of Chicago, had once famously quoted, “Make no little plans.” Placemaking, the process of activating a space and calling it a home, can be big plans or small plans. 

We live in Chicago, we visit Chicago, and we explore Chicago in an outrageous myriad of different angles through the eyes, minds, and feelings of people from all walks of life.  This is what makes our Windy City so grand and so windy. Something is always self-activating or people-activated. 

Our city has the lake, the train, the bus, the beach, the park, the taxi, and the architecture. All this non-stop activity fulfills Chicago’s placemaking. Our iconic structures that are still standing, still run our city. Along with cutting edge skyscrapers, these structures all act as our logo on souvenir postcards and define our skyline. Just like the Hollywood sign in LA, we have our placemaking defining Chicago.

The Merchandise Mart, the iconic structure spreading out horizontally rather than vertically in the sky, truly gives Chicago its name as people, cabs, trains, and the polar vortex run around the building and its surroundings.

Oh yes, sir, boy does Chicago have big plans for keeping it’s name and it’s coolness.

This article was published in the digital archive of Chicago Architect magazine (in-house publication of AIA Chicago). December 2014

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