29 jan 09 | Medill Reports

Local architects plan an eco-bridge to complete Burnham's plan

by Lisa Jacobson

One hundred years after its inception, the vision of Daniel Burnham has inspired two Chicago architects to create an eco-bridge they hope will be completed with the help of a 2016 Olympic bid.

Burnham "defined the character of Chicago as a place of visionary pragmatists," said Paul O'Connor, director of communications and marketing for the Burnham Plan Centennial. "The inspiration and intimidation of Burnham and [his assistant Edward] Bennett" have encouraged later generations to do more and to do better, leading architects Adrian Smith and Gordon Gill to revive the plan 100 years later.

The eco-bridge is a two-mile footbridge that would connect opposite ends of the city center and Grant Park. It would serve as a breakwater in Monroe Harbor and create recreational space for residents and visitors.

"The bridge is a good example of eco-friendly design," said Bob O'Neill, president of Grant Park Conservatory. "I think it is ambitious and wonderful and what the people and Chicago need."

Burnham can be attributed with the creation of the Magnificent Mile, Wacker Drive and the concept, taken from the Dutch, of filling that turned gritty rail yards into 26 miles of lakefront beaches.

Burnham thought big. He "defined that Chicago would always be driven by a quest to be the greatest city in the world," O'Connor said.

"We are trying to encourage people to make bold plans in practical ways," O'Connor said. These bold plans are what have drawn Gill to create a bridge with no financial backers -- as of yet.

It would be great to integrate [the bridge] into the Olympic bid, said O'Neill, "it would truly be a lasting legacy from the Olympics.

"The most beautiful place to have a boat in Chicago is Grant Park because of the skyline," said O'Neill. The creation of the eco-bridge would allow the general public to enjoy the view and be out on the water with the boaters.