Building the Business of Architecture The Burnham Brothers and Chicago in the Golden Twenties

Architectural renderings ranging from façade drawings to engineering plans will be displayed at an exhibition exploring the works of Plan of Chicago architects Daniel Burnham and Edward Bennett and others opening July 9 at the DePaul University Art Museum in Chicago.

architects“Building the Business of Architecture: the Burnham Brothers and Chicago in the Golden Twenties,” which runs through Sept. 16, traces the inside view of the history of Chicago’s iconic skyline through architectural drawings, photographs and archival documents. An opening reception will be held from 5 to 7 p.m. July 9 at the museum.

Also on display in the exhibition will be 19 architectural drawings by the Burnham brothers for the Engineering Building (1928); a presentation drawing by the Burnham brothers of the façade of the Carbide and Carbon Building; a copy of Burnham and Bennett’s Plan of Chicago; prints and drawings of the Chicago River area from the turn of the century through the 1920s; photographs of the architects, their studios and buildings in progress; architectural fragments, including terra cotta façade; and 1920s newspapers and magazines showing buildings as corporate symbols.

“These heavily annotated drawings are fascinating primary documents that open a window into architectural design and decision-making,” Museum Director Louise Lincoln said of the exhibit.

The exhibition is curated by Paul Jaskot, professor of art history at DePaul, in collaboration with students enrolled in Jaskot’s course Burnham, Chicago and the Progressive-era City.

“Corporate skyscrapers in the 1920s clustered around the Chicago River, which was both a centerpiece of Burnham and Bennett’s plan for the city as well as a site that diverged markedly from their recommendations,” Jaskot said. “It is a fantastic site for exploring the intersection of urban planning, economic history and the importance of advertising to architects in the 1920s.”

The exhibition is one of many activities commemorating the centennial of Chicago’s famed Burnham Plan by architects and urban planners Daniel Burnham and Edward Bennett, which led to the creation of the lakefront parks, forest preserve districts and dramatic improvements to the city’s downtown area. DePaul’s Burnham centennial events are being held in collaboration with the Burnham Plan Centennial Committee housed at Chicago Metropolis 2020 and its 200-plus partner organizations, the Harry F. Chaddick Foundation, other universities and civic leaders.

From its founding in 1898 DePaul University has focused on its urban setting and the importance of providing higher education to underserved populations. For many years its students were largely drawn from the Chicago area, but in the past decade enrollment has increased dramatically and now two-thirds of entering students are not residents of the city. The university’s commitment to the city and to urban issues has only increased; numerous academic initiatives focus on Chicago, particularly on addressing issues of social justice. All entering undergraduate students participate in courses related to the city and its neighborhoods (the Discover Chicago program), and many students and staff are involved in programs that focus their work directly on aspects of urban life (Community-Based Service Learning).

The DePaul University Art Museum is a 4,000-square-foot facility on the university’s Lincoln Park campus. Staffed by museum professionals, it serves as a focal point for teaching and discussion through visual arts and material culture. It supports the educational mission of the university through its collections, exhibitions, programs, and events, which allow both students and members of the wider community to explore broadly the visual representation of ideas over time and space. Its collections and programs are diverse, but strongly represent art of the Chicago area. Many of its projects are historical or thematic in focus, but the gallery has a commitment to showing contemporary art as a means of exploring aspects of our own culture.

DePaul Art Museum 2350 N. Kenmore Ave., Chicago IL 60614 | 773-325-7506

Image: Daniel H. Burnham & Company, Architects, “The Engineering Building S.W. Corner of Wacker Drive & Wells St. Chicago No. 1260; 17A, Wacker Drive Entrance”. Graphite on tracing paper. Collection of DePaul University, gift of funds from the Richard Driehaus Charitable Lead Trust.

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