Friday, April 03, 2009

Burnham Bizarro

The story of the AIA/Chicago-run competition to design a memorial to Daniel Burnham on the museum campus just keeps getting curiouser and curiouser.

Tribune architecture critic Blair Kamin is reporting that the AIA has announced three finalists: David Woodhouse Architects; Hoerr Schaudt (the firm of Douglas Hoerr and Peter Lindsay Schaudt) and Boston's Sasaki Associates.

The mondo bizarro part of the announcement is that the AIA is refusing to release any of the three designs to the public. Kamin quotes an AIA spokeswoman as spinning, " "We want to let them keep their ideas to themselves."

So let's get this straight. The final three designs for a public site are being withheld from the public to keep the finalists, as Kamin has the AIA explaining it, from stealing from each other's designs.


I've covered a lot of competitions in my day but I can't remember any of them hiding the work of the finalists from public view, and the AIA's excuse is risible. Are they saying the jury will be too stupid to notice if a final design cribs from the preliminary entries of its competitors?

What is becoming clear is that while the AIA's competition, as a memorial to the work and vision of Daniel Burnham, is increasingly becoming a non sequitur, as a commemoration of process, itself, of the in-bred, arrogant, behind closed-doors way planning in Chicago has become corrupted since Burnham's day: it's choice.


Anonymous said...

"When having a competition, make no little goofs. Just make the whole thing a goof."----Daniel Burnham

Samuel John Lima said...

I think a lot of it has to do with the destruction of the democratic process in competitions. The public voice is powerful, and if they became attached to one of the designs, then the "enlightened" decision of the jury won't really matter. It could grind the whole project to a halt (like in the Alaska capitol competition).