From Library Journal
Urban and architectural historians persist in praising Daniel Burnham's 1909 Plan of Chicago (Princeton Architectural, 1993. reprint), which envisioned the chaotic, overburdened, and overgrown metropolis as a neoclassical paradise. Once again, the Commercial Club of Chicago has sponsored a plan for the city's development, but Johnson, a lawyer and civic leader, has a more overtly social agenda: housing, education, race, and poverty take center stage. Charts and tables are few, replaced, it seems, by numerous oddly homiletic outtakes from thinkers and writers of the past century. Along with a generally conservative agenda, with a call to duty to the private sector, Johnson mandates support from local and state government, to be enhanced by a reformed property tax system one of the most specific contributions of the new plan. He addresses housing and segregation vigorously and earmarks improved public transportation. How these laudable goals are to be achieved remains regrettably unclear. Thus, this work labors under the same delusional spirit of boosterism as Burnham's plan, namely, that architecture and design can transform society. Nevertheless, in identifying the central urban planning issues for the new century, Johnson's effort is important for urban design and planning collections. Paul Glassman, New York Sch. of Interior Design Lib.
Copyright 2001 Reed Business Information, Inc.
From the Inside Flap
In the late nineteeth century, Chicago was a commercial colossus, a city growing more quickly than New York, flooded with industrial money and brassy confidence but ravaged by great income disparities, dangerously lax health standards, and labor upheavals. For Chicago to become the city it could be, civic leaders recognized the need for order and planning, both to solve Chicago's problems and to prepare it for a prosperous future. The result was architect Daniel Burnham's 1909 Plan of Chicago, a model of urban planning, aesthetic sophistication, and technical achievement.
Nearly a century later, Chicago, like all cities, faces similar dilemmas: how to reconcile privatism with public control, growth with restraint, wealth with poverty, and beauty with industry. And as it did a hundred years ago with the Burnham Plan, the Commercial Club has sponsored a wholly contemporary plan for the city's future development. Written by Elmer W. Johnson, a lawyer and civic leader, Chicago Metropolis 2020 is a guide for those in all spheres of influence who are working to make cities economically and socially vigorous while addressing the greatest problems modern metropolises face. While Burnham's plan primarily addressed architecture and spatial planning, Chicago Metropolis 2020 speaks to all facets of urban life, from public education to suburban sprawl, from transportation to social and economic segregation, with the expressed goal of continuing Chicago's tradition of renewal and foresight.
The underlying premise of the plan is that creating a strong and prosperous city is possible only if we recognize the extent to which all parts of the region are bound together by an intricate web of interdependencies. Chicago faces numerous challenges and obstacles, the most pressing of which are the plight of public schools, the consequences of low-density sprawl on the city's perimeter (and the concomitant depopulation of other areas of the city), and the high levels of concentrated poverty and racial and social segregation. Johnson argues that these and related problems-which afflict all of America's cities-need to be addressed on a regional level, and he proposes a new network of organization and resources that can serve as a model for other areas.
Chicago Metropolis 2020 is an ambitious and necessary plan for a major city at the turn of the century. It is not a "quick fix" but rather a considered review of existing conditions and policies that need to be revised to meet the new urban challenges. In scope and execution, it aims at nothing less than economic vibrancy, quality of life, and equity of opportunity.