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Picturing the Profession: The View from Above and the Civic Imaginary in Burnham's Plans

Ross, Rebecca (2013) Picturing the Profession: The View from Above and the Civic Imaginary in Burnham's Plans. Journal of Planning History, 12 (3). pp. 269-281. ISSN 1538-5132

Type of Research: Article
Creators: Ross, Rebecca
Description:

In this article, I reconsider the significance of Daniel Burnham’s contribution to the professionalization of city planning in light of contemporaneous practices of viewing and depicting the city from above. A closer look at the working methods employed and images produced by Burnham and his staff reveals their role in cultivating a shared civic imaginary. That is, drawing upon existing widespread cultural enthusiasm for viewing the city from above, they stimulated the imagination toward the city as it might be, while positioning themselves as new kinds of experts tasked with reconciling discrepancies between the built and imagined city on behalf of the public. I structure the article in particular around the discussion of three images: San Francisco as envisaged from the Twin Peaks viewing platform, published in Report on a Plan for San Francisco (1905); a bird’s-eye view of Chicago as envisaged in a watercolor by Jules Guerin, published in The Plan of Chicago (1909); and a Chicago civic center as envisaged in another watercolor by Jules Guerin, published in The Plan of Chicago (1909). Through formal and discursive consideration of these images, I argue that a burgeoning sense of the civic imaginary shared by professionals, elites, and ordinary citizens played a crucial role in the institution of the city-planning profession in the first decade of the twentieth century. Regardless of the specific details and subsequent status of the plans to which they refer, the images are important to consider in their own right. As instruments in a recasting of urban form, they materialize a new sense of the city as both malleable and the object of concern for a new kind of specialist.

Official Website: http://jph.sagepub.com/content/12/3/269
Keywords/subjects not otherwise listed: civic imaginary, visual culture, professionalization of planning, Burnham
Publisher/Broadcaster/Company: Sage
Your affiliations with UAL: Colleges > Central Saint Martins
Date: 1 August 2013
Digital Object Identifier: 10.1177/1538513213481762
Date Deposited: 08 Aug 2013 11:22
Last Modified: 08 Aug 2013 11:22
Item ID: 6043
URI: http://ualresearchonline.arts.ac.uk/id/eprint/6043

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