portrait of Daniel Burnham

Make No Little Plans: Daniel Burnham and the American City

The life and achievements of architect and urban designer Daniel Burnham offer a chance to witness the application of the social agenda of the City Beautiful movement, of which Burnham was one of the most famous practitioners.

  • English
  • 58 Mins
  • Published
    2010
AICP CM

“Make No Little Plans: Daniel Burnham and the American City” tells the story of Daniel Burnham’s life and achievements, as one of the most influential architects and urban planners in American history. 

The documentary presents the career of Daniel Burnham, one of the most famous figures in the City Beautiful movement that dominated the fields of U.S. architecture and urban design through the late 19th century and into the early 20th century. The City Beautiful movement looked to classic monuments for influence while also paying attention to the situation of buildings in relationship to the natural world. The City Beautiful movement would fall out of favor in the 20th century, but not before generations of urban planners and architects worked to further the ambitions put forward by Burnham and his colleagues. 

The film starts with the story of Daniel Burnham’s roots and upbringing, before an early career in commercial architecture offered a chance to plan and design the World’s Columbian Exhibition in Chicago in 1893. The “White City” created for that exhibition only lasted a summer, but Daniel Burnham’s celebrity afterward offered a role in massive city planning and design efforts in Washington, D.C., San Francisco, Manila and Baguio in the Philippines, Cleveland, and his hometown Chicago.

The life and achievements of Burnham also offer a chance to witness the application of the social agenda of the City Beautiful movement, of which Burnham was one of the most famous practitioners. In this film, we see the history of a man in the right time and place to achieve great success in the creation of the built environment. The ideas put forward by Burnham and the City Beautiful movement are both controversial and influential to this day, and Burnham’s example calls planners and urban designers to confront the realities of today.

AICP CM

This course is approved for 1 AICP CM credit.