I like to read both fiction and nonfiction--fiction for the way it takes me to places I may never go and introduces me to people I may never meet, and nonfiction for the way it makes me think about the world we live in and draw connections between past and present.
There were a few passages in this first part that really struck me. Here is one from pp. 25-26.
This was the heyday of architectural invention. Elevators got faster and safer. Glassmakers became adept at turning out ever larger sheets of plate glass. William Jenney, of the firm Loring & Jenney, where Burnham started his architectural career, designed the first building to have a load-bearing metal frame, in which the burden of supporting the structure was shifted from the exterior walls to a skeleton of iron and steel. Burnham and Root realized that Jenney's innovation freed builders from the last physical constraints on altitude.While reading this I couldn't help but think of the burned out remains of the Word Trade Center buildings, and the mass of twisted steel that stood. We don't often think about the skeleton of a building, but the collapse of the towers made them visible. I find I think about how things are made more often now, and frequently take time to stop and watch buildings as they go up.
I found the section about determining a site for the Fair to be very frustrating, and can't imagine what Burnham and Root were feeling. The fact that the politicians dragged their feet so long when they knew time was of the essence and the importance of the Fair to both Chicago and the U.S. must have been infuriating. It's sad that little seems to have changed. The city of Richmond will lose its AAA baseball team this year because the city spent more than two years avoiding the issue of maintaining and updating the stadium. Frustrated by the lack of progress, the team decided to leave. I suppose this happens often, but Burnham and Root had no such out.
After reading this section I wanted to know more about the roots of Chicago architecture. I found a brief article from CNN entitled Chicago: Tracing Modern Architecture. Here's what they have to say about Burnham (and Root).
DANIEL BURNHAM (1846-1912): CITY PLANNER
Burnham was an influential early Chicago architect but is most notable for his 1909 Plan for Chicago and its lasting influence on urban planning.
"Even in modern Chicago in 2007, people think about his plan when looking to do new things in the city," Neises said.
Early in his career, Burnham worked with William Le Baron Jenney, who is known as the "father of the skyscraper" for his work with metal-frame construction.
Later, Burnham and his partner, John Wellborn Root, built a number of buildings in what became known as the Chicago commercial style, which used metal framework to allow for taller buildings with larger windows and more open floor plans.
The Rookery (1885-88), 209 S. LaSalle St. This building, designed by Burnham and Root, uses both load-bearing masonry and metal-frame construction, tracing the evolution of commercial architecture.
Santa Fe Building (1904), 224 S. Michigan Ave. Designed by D.H. Burnham and Co., the building is the former home of Burnham's own offices and now houses the Chicago Architecture Foundation. It's a mature version of the Chicago commercial style that developed in the 1880s.