To honor Daniel H. Burnham, a memorial design competition was held concurrently with the centennial celebration of Burnham's 1909 Plan of Chicago. The competition was devised to celebrate the achievements and vision of this remarkable American planner and architect, and ultimately result in a memorial sited adjacent to the monumental Field Museum. Out of the 20 firms invited to participate, Sasaki was one of the three finalists.
Sasaki's design was inspired by Burnham's understanding of the landscape of Chicago, described in his words as a city defined by two natural features—the Prairie and the Lake—both "immeasurable by the senses," both stretching off into a "limitless horizon." Burnham also famously declared that the "lakefront belongs to the people." In honor of this man and his principles, Sasaki's design redefines the relationship of the site to the lake and, in a bold and poetic manner, shifts the orientation of the site to the expansive view of the horizon.
The competition entry focused on three strategic design moves. First, the design clarifies circulation systems on site, making strong, legible connections between the museum campus, Grant Park, and the lake. Second, the proposal reconfigures the site elements—the city terraces, the valley or lowland prairie, and the lakefront overlook—to better serve as the needs of visitors to the park and museum campus. Lastly, it creates Memorial Path, which negotiates these three landscapes, creating a modern gateway experience into the museum campus from Grant Park.
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