Imagine that | Bleader

Friday, April 3, 2009

Imagine that

Posted By on 04.03.09 at 11:43 AM

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The city's plague of IOC-visit IMAGINE ads has been driving me a bit nuts. Not just for the obvious reasons, but... because they seem so picayune. Here, a text representation: "IMAGINE: [VOLLEYBALL PLAYER]" But I don't have to imagine volleyball. I've seen volleyball. It's fine, although it kind of makes me feel like a cat watching a laser pointer.

I was reminded of this reading the Sun-Times editorial today, which - wait for it! - starts with Daniel Burnham: On the centennial of his sweeping 1909 Plan of Chicago, his city again is making "no little plans." As Steve Rhodes puts it, "I'm shocked - shocked - to see this ridiculous phrase wheeled out again."

It's a pernicious little quote because there's nothing qualitative about it - it demands that plans only be not little (I'm unaware of Burnham's official position on medium-sized plans). But Burnham said a lot of other things, too, in regards to the actual qualities of cities he desired, in his not-little plan for Chicago:

"Good order and convenience are not expensive; but haphazard and ill-considered projects invariably result in extravagance and wastefulness." (p. 4)

"The constant struggle of civilization is to know and obtain the highest good; and the city which brings about the best conditions of life becomes the most prosperous." (p. 34)

"It is the opinion of all experts on road building that taking a period of ten years, a good bed and surface carefully maintained all the time will cost less in the aggregate than the very best bed and surface if neglected. We need perfect maintenance, and organization constantly kept sharp and effective, rather than expensive first construction." (p. 39)

"For health and good order there should be one acre of park area for each hundred people." (p. 44)

"The mistakes of the past should be warnings for the future." (p. 80)

"The two prime considerations for every large city are, first, adequate means of circulation; and second, a sufficient park area to insure good health and good order." (p. 80)

Not to mention: whenever anyone hands you Burnham's old chestnut, direct them towards this Whereblog post about what thinking big can actually entail. It can be a lot more interesting than imagining a volleyball player.

On the other hand: dressage!

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