In the time-honored Lynn Becker tradition of reminding you of something special just seconds before it's gone, one of best Burnham related events I've encountered is a superb exhibition at the Columbia College Museum of Contemporary Photography, Edge of Intent, which you have only two more days to see - today, Friday, the 3rd and Sunday the 5th (the Museum is closed on the 4th.)
On one level, the exhibition is completely tangential to the Burnham centennial celebration, with few overt references to the man and his celebrated 1909 plan, but at a deeper level, it's one of the most direct engagements, exploring the dynamics of urbanism in utopian/distopian viewpoints of often stunning visual power.
Andrew Harrison takes a roadmap of his native New Jersey and reconstitutes it within the contours of plans of perfect cities, from Burnham, to Atlantis, El Dorado, The Radiant City and the Plan for Brasilia, exploring the imposition of an abstracted, idealized order upon a terrain that has already been abstracted through mapping.
Simon Menner presents a series of high-res photographs depicting the homeless in very individual conditions from Mumbai to Paris to Chicago, where a shot of the homeless sleeping in a small park near where the Congress Expressway crosses the river appears almost cliche until you notice that they share the park with a family of nocturnal rabbits.
The photos of Tim Long begin almost like a travelogue on kayaking the Chicago river, but as it evolves you see you're on an eloquent journey, all the way to the Mississippi, that tracks the various landscapes of urbanism from the sleek towers of downtown, the raw industrial outskirts, the trashed outlying districts and the slow depacing as density dematerializes pre-despoiled landscape.
Perhaps the most cautionary and disturbing echo of the great expectations Burnham and his plan engendered can be found in a stunning series of photographs by Eric Smith of the abandoned Michigan Central Train Station, designed by the same architects - and the despairing doppelganger - of New York's Grand Central, a hallucinatory ruin of eviscerated grandeur and decimated ambition.
There's not a clunker in the bunch of the ten artists exhibiting - it's the best Burnham-related show I've seen so far. You can see descriptions of photo's of each artist's contribution here. The museum is free, and it's open today, Friday from 10 a.m., and 5 p.m, and Sunday from noon to 5 p.m. Conveniently located at 600 South Michigan and just on your way to Taste of Chicago and the fireworks. Try to carve out a half-hour or so of your holiday to check out this extraordinary show - you won't regret it.