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ARCHITECTURE AT THE WORLD'S COLUMBIAN
HE World's Columbian and seven miles south of the central part of
Exposition was organized the city, with a length of a mile and a half on April 9, 1890, and on the the lake side and three quarters of a mile in 25th of the same month width. Topographically the place consisted of Congress passed the bill a series of low sand-dunes which had been giving Chicago the honor thrown up successively by the lake in lines of this great enterprise. On nearly parallel with the shore, the most con
July 1 following, Jackson siderable of them having an average height of Park and the lake front of Chicago were se- not more than six feet above the high stages lected as the double site of the Exposition. On of the water. Between these dunes there were the 20th of August F. L. Olmsted & Co. were broad, low, flat, swampy swales, subject to ocelected consulting landscape-architects. Be- casional floods, with water generally standing tween then and the following December the or- one or two feet below the surface. On some ganization of the Department of Construction of these dunes groves of small, stunted oaks was perfected by the appointment of D. H. were growing, and the intermediate flats were Burnham as chief and of J. W. Root as consult- more or less overgrown by sedge and watering architect, Mr. Burnham having acted as grasses. professional adviser from the beginning of the This tract belonged to the South Park Comenterprise. Undoubtedly to his sagacity, en- mission, having been obtained twenty years ergy, and breadth of view, and to his wide ex- before with a view to its future improvement perience in important architectural work, the as a public park. Practically it was in a state Chicago Commission is largely indebted for of nature, as we have described, except as to the great effective working capacity which it a limited area at its northern end, which had has developed; and under his organizing power been graded, planted, diversified by ponds, and the complicated machinery of administration made accessible by drives and walks. The disin respect to grounds and buildings was fairly advantages of this site were sufficiently obestablished.
vious; but it was considered that they, together For reasons which we need not state, the with the inconvenience arising from its distance double site was finally abandoned; and it then from the thickly populated parts of the city, became the duty of the Committee on Grounds would be offset by these advantages: first, that and Buildings, under the advice of their chosen it was unencumbered with buildings; 'secondly, experts, to review this all-important question of that it could be made readily accessible, either by locality, and to discover, if possible, within the boats on the lake or by public land conveyances limits of Chicago, or in its near vicinity, an area of various sorts, without numerous railroad or of land capable of containing, without crowd- river crossings; and thirdly, that a number of ing, a series of buildings which, in the aggre- railroads passed within a few hundred feet of gate, should be at least 50 per cent. larger than the landward boundaries of the tract, extendthose of the last Paris Exposition; should be ing in one direction nearly to the heart of the conveniently and economically accessible for city, and, in the other, connecting, or easily to visitors and for material; not divided by rail- be connected, with lines to all parts of the conroads, streets, creeks, or cemeteries; and not so tinent. Indeed, to the experienced eye and encumbered with buildings or other improve- instructed imagination of the landscape-archiments that it would be difficult to obtain pos- tects the very qualities in this desert-like waste session of it and to prepare it for the reception which presented the most formidable obstaof the structures of the Exposition.
cles to the realization of anything approaching Of the few places answering these require- the horticultural splendors, or finished park-like ments all were flat, low, and, from a horticul- aspects, of previous international expositions tural point of view, unsatisfactory. The only suggested the possibility of procuring out of large, agreeable, or dignified element of scenery these most unpromising elements effects quite within many miles of the town was the lake, unusual, yet of a wholly appropriate character. and there was discovered only one place on the The broad expanse of the great inland lake lake presenting the desired conditions. This itself, with its ever-changing surface and its was a tract of five hundred acres between six oceanic horizon, its waters prospectively alive
with sails, and animated by the incessant Another fundamental condition affecting the movement of steamers and craft of every sort, general dispositions of the plan was the method “ornate, bedecked, and gay," beneath the un- of reaching the Park by the seven railroads, so limited summer sky, would give to the mise-en- that the difficult problem of debarking and emscène a peculiar character, under the influence barking more than 60,000 people every hour of which the foreign visitor might forget to ask by these means of transit should be solved with for that metropolitan opulence of shaded park- the least confusion, and at a point where the land which here could not be obtained. Steam- visitor should be introduced to the grounds dredges and the railroad grading-processes of through a monumental vestibule, from which the West could readily at small expense en- a scene should open, stately, splendid, and surlarge the areas of higher land, and create level prising, alike in its architectural and in its plateaus and stately terraces as sites for the natural elements. It was necessary, also, to great buildings of the Exposition, with material consider every means of approach by streetexcavated from the wet and sedgy intervals, cars and by water,—the latter suggesting the converting the latter into a system of lagoons provision of moles and protected harbors on connected with the lake by walled canals and the lake side,—and also to provide for an basins. Thus might be created within the additional intramural communication by some grounds an interior water-system, four miles form of elevated railway. in length, which would be navigable by om- None of the difficulties to be surmounted, nibus-boats, conveying visitors from every however, were greater than those presented by quarter of the Park to landings before each the necessity of converting into a garden a of the principal buildings.
tract of land which was almost a desert waste; Under such circumstances the landscape- so that the grounds in which the great monuarchitects felt authorized to recommend to the mental buildings of the Exposition were to committee the use of the grounds known as be placed should be set forth with something Jackson Park, which, after much negotiation more than formal architectural terraces, balwith the South Park Commissioners, and much ustrades, bridges, statues, fountains, and canals, controversy with those advocating other sites, and should enjoy at least some of the advanwere finally obtained under the agreement that, tages to be obtained from ordered or picturafter the Exposition and after the removal of esque vegetation. Unlike the sites of former the buildings, they should be left in a condition expositions, located in the heart of ancient civwell adapted to be formed into a permanent ilizations, the prairies of Illinois afford no impublic park for the city. A succession of in- perial treasuries of trees and shrubbery, from genious plans was then prepared and reported which the modern Amphion could draw the to the committee by these gentlemen, in inti- means of establishing such vast, full-grown mate connection with Messrs. Burnham and masses of foliage as were needed adequately Root, illustrating the gradual development of to decorate these impoverished acres. When a general scheme for the occupation of the site, the thick ice which is formed on Lake MichMr. Root making sketch-designs of all the igan during the winter is broken up, it is driven buildings as the work progressed. The lead- by prevailing north winds toward Chicago, and ing motives of composition were to obtain such there lingers to prolong the tardy spring. A a disposition of the greater buildings as should little later, while the first leaves are unfolding, make the best and most effective use of the a night gale from Canada sweeps over these natural conditions of the ground, when modi- five hundred miles of ice-cold water, and all fied and corrected by the art of the landscape- forms of vegetable growth along the southern architect; should give to these buildings a margin of the lake are discouraged and deproper and articulate relation, one to the other, 'layed. Moreover, the fluctuations which are and also to the water-system of the Park; characteristic of the waters of the lake, not only should group them in a formal and artificial from day to day, but in its normal and average manner at those points where their great size elevations during the summer, must create bare and necessary mutual proximity invited a pre- and dreary shores where the intramural waterdominance of architectural magnificence, or system of the Park expands from the formal, picturesquely and accidentally, where the con- stone-bordered canals into the broad and picditions of the landscape were such as to for- turesque lagoon. bid a close observance of axial lines and vistas. To obviate these difficulties it was deterBut all these dispositions were made subor- mined — first, so to treat the existing groves dinate to the situation furnished by the wide of trees that their dwarfish character would be expanse and horizon of the lake, so that this masked by the introductionof hardy,indigenous important element of composition should have shrubs around the margin of each group, thus its due value from all the principal points of creating effects of massed foliage, as seen from observation.
a distance; secondly, to edge the water with a
nearly continuous strip of reedy, aquatic plants, ommendations contained in a remarkable mewhich would bear occasional submergence; and morial presented to them by their professional thirdly, to provide these with backgrounds of advisers, to give to the architectural part of the low foliage, chiefly shrub willows and brightly Exposition, so far as possible, an appropriate tiowering local plants. Occasional stretches national character, by making a direct selecof well-kept lawn would also, where necessary, tion of representative architects; thus not only serve to refine the rustic aspect of the grounds. avoiding the serious delays and embarrassments
At the outset the Committee on Grounds and which would inevitably accompany any form of Buildings, together with D. H. Burnham, Chief competition, but at the same time enlisting the of Construction, were confronted by a delicate services of a body of professional experts to conand difficult problem. How were the designs for sider the architectural questions from the beginthese great buildings to be obtained ? Should ning and as a whole, and to lay out a scheme one architect be appointed for the whole, or, in of efficient and harmonious cooperation.1 view of the more practical alternativeofappoint- On January 12, 1891, the invited architects, ing one architect for each building, should these Messrs. R. M. Hunt, George B. Post, and be selected by general competition, by limited McKim, Mead, and White of New York, Peacompetition, or by direct selection ? After a body and Stearns of Bo on, Van Brunt and careful review of the subject, it was concluded Howe of Kansas City, together with Messrs. by the committee, in accordance with the rec- Adler and Sullivan, S. S. Beman, Henry Ives
1 Innumerable experiments with architectural com- thusiasm by men known to be in every way endowed petitions have made it clear enough that, of all the with these qualities, and the results achieved by them methods of selecting the architect, this is the most will be the measure by which America, and especially wasteful, unscientific, tedious, costly, demoralizing, and Chicago, must expect to be judged by the world. Sevuncertain. It is almost impossible to devise a com- eral methods of procedure suggest themselves : petitive scheme which will, as its result, secure to First. The selection of one man to whom the de. the building the best service, or to the competitors an signing of the entire work should be intrusted. opportunity to express their most useful qualities as Second. Competition made free to the whole archiarchitects. It seems equally evident that the establish. tectural profession. ment of confidential professional relations in the be- Third. Competition among a selected few. ginning with an architect chosen because of his proved Fourth. Direct selection, ability and experience, and not because of the accident The first method would possess some advantage in of his success in a game of chance, is economical of the coherent and logical result which would be attained. time and money, and consistent with honest business But the objections are that time for the preparation of principles. Therefore, the action of the Committee on designs is so short that no one man could hope to do Grounds and Buildings in this case is so memorable the subject justice, even were he broad enough to avoid, in the history of architectural practice, that we deem it in work of such varied and colossal character, monotimportant to print here the report upon which this onoas repetition of ideas. And, again, such a method action was based. This report was prepared by Mr. would evoke criticism, just or unjust, and would cerBurnham, and, at his request, was signed by all the pro- tainly debar the enterprise from the friendly coöperafesjonal advisers of the committee.
tion of a diversity of talent, which can be secured only
Dec. 6, 1890. by bringing together the best architectural minds of THE HONORABLE THE COMMITTEE ON GROUNDS our country. The second method named has been em
AND BUILDINGS, WORLD'S COLUMBIAN Ex- ployed in France and other European countries with POSITION.
success, and would probably result in the production Gentlemen : Preliminary work in locating buildings, of a certain number of plans possessing more or less in determining their general areas, and in other ele. merit and novelty. But in such a competition much mentary directions necessary to proper progress in the time, even now most valuable, would be wasted, and desiga and erection of the structures of the Columbian the result would be a mass of irrelevant and almost irExposition, has now reached a point where it becomes reconcilable material, which would demand great and necessary to determine the method by which designs extended labor to bring into coherence. It is greatly for these buildings shall be obtained.
to be feared that from such a heterogeneous competí. We recognize that your action in the matter will be tion the best men of the profession would refrain, not of great importance, not only in its direct effect upon only because the uncertainties involved in it are too the artistic and commercial success of the Exposition, great and their time too valuable, but because the socie. brat scarcely less upon the aspect presented by America ties to which they almost universally belong have so to the world, and also as a precedent for future pro- strongly pronounced on its futility. A limited and fair viure in the country by the Government, by corpora- competition would present fewer embarrassments, but tions, and individuals. In our advisory capacity we even in this case the question of time is presented, and wish to recommend such action to you as will be pro- it is most unlikely that any result derived through this ductive of the best results, and will at the same time be means, coming as it would from necessarily partial acin accord with the expressed sentiments of the archi- quaintance with the subject, and hasty, ill.considered tectural societies of America. Whatever suggestions presentation of it, could be satisfactory, and the selecare here madle relate to the main buildings located at tion of an individual would be open to the same objecJackson Park
tions made above as to a single designer. Far better That these buildings should in their designs, rela- than any of the methods seems to be the last. This is tionsbips, and arrangement be of the highest possible to select a certain number of architects, choosing each architectural merit is of importance scarcely less great man for such work as would be most nearly parallel than the variety, richness, and comprehensiveness of with his best achievements; these architects to meet the various displays within them. Such success is not in conference, and become masters of all the elements so much dependent upon the expenditure of money as of the problems to be solved, and agree upon some genupon the expenditure of thought, knowledge, and en- eral scheme of procedure. The preliminary studies re.
Cobb, W.L.B. Jenney, and Burling and White- them has been of permanent value, and has house of Chicago, were called together to con- been followed with generous intelligence and sult with the chief of construction, the consult- to the manifest advantage of the Exposition. ing architect, and with Frederick Law Olmsted The basis of operations is explained by the and his partner, Henry Sargent Codman of plan of the grounds herewith presented, which Boston, regarding the architectural conditions exhibits in outline the result, not of the latest involved in the scheme of the Exposition. The studies, but of that stage of the work reached at latest plans of the consulting architect and land- the time when it was necessary to prepare the scape-architects, which, as a whole, had been map for the purpose of illustrating this paper. accepted by the National Commission and by In a subsequent paper we hope to present a the Chicago directors, were laid before this more comprehensive plan, indicating the naboard of architects for consideration. After an ture of the modification to which the whole exhaustive study of the whole problem, during scheme has been subject from month to month.
revisions and modifications more It will be observed that there are three grand or less fundamental were suggested and con- divisions. Of these the northernmost, which sidered, it was finally resolved to recommend had already been laid out as a park by the to the Committee on Grounds and Buildings city, is to be occupied centrally by the Departthe acceptance of the general scheme of loca- ment of Fine Arts, the State pavilions being tion of buildings and waterways, as prepared grouped north and west of it; while the foreign by Messrs. Root, Olmsted, and Codman, with government buildings will be placed east of it, but little modification. In fact the problem had toward the lake, and, if occasion requires, in been developed by these gentlemen with so the Plaisance, which is a long reserved tract much skill and with such exact forethought for 600 feet wide between 59th and both streets, all the conditions embraced in this vast compli- forming a boulevard approach to Jackson Park cation of interests, and the several stages of de- from the west. In this tract also areas have velopment had been so intelligently discussed been granted to foreign enterprise for the esby the committee and by the chief of construc- tablishment of model villages and groups of tion, that it was evident to the board of profes- pavilions illustrating the characteristics of dosional experts that they could devise no better mestic and industrial life in remote countries. starting-point for their specific part of the work. The middle division is formed by the lagoon,
The sudden death of Mr. Root, after a very the most characteristic landscape feature of the brief illness, during these preliminary sessions grounds. Thisisan irregular, artificialwater-way of the Architectural Board, deprived this great surrounding several islands, the largest among enterprise of services which would have been them being a wooded tract about 1700 feet long of peculiar value in perfecting the architectural and from 200 to 500 feet wide, the natural conwork, and which already had been an essential fac- ditions of which will be enhanced by aquatic tor in laying out the generalscheme of the build- shrubbery and flower-beds, with kiosks and rusings, and in facilitating an effective, fraternal tic pavilions approached by bridges. A part of coördination of professional labor such as rarely, the northern end of this island has been applied if ever, has occurred in the history of archi- for by,and will probably be granted to, the Japatecture. The strong initiative force furnished by nese commissioners, who propose to lay out a the generous enthusiasm and bright genius of considerable area in a characteristic garden, Root remained, however, with the Architectu- according to their ancient traditions in this art, ral Board, and has been an element constantly and to embellish it with exact reproductions of working for unity and strength in its councils. several of their most venerable temples. The
In all projects relating to the decoration outer margins of the lagoon will be occupied on of the grounds by sculpture and monumental the west by the Transportation Building, by the fountains, the large experience and cminent Horticultural Building, with its gardens, and authority of Mr. Augustus St. Gaudens have by the Woman's Building; on the east, toward been forces working silently for higher art, the lake, will stand the Palace of Manufactures greater nobility of expression, and more effec- and Liberal Arts, and the United States Pavilion. tive results. Unfortunately the work of his The lagoon branches capriciously northward own hand will not appear in these decorations; and eastward, giving water-fronts to the Pabut his advice in the selection of sculptors for vilion of Fine Arts, to the Illinois State Buildsulting from this to be compared and freely discussed dignified and friendly could not fail to be productive in a subsequent conference, and, with the assistance of of a result which would stand before the world as the such suggestions as your advisers might make, to be best fruit of American civilization. brought into a harmonious whole.
The honor conferred upon those selected would create D. H. BURNHAM, Chief of Construction. in their minds a disposition to place the artistic quality John W. Root, Consulting Architect. of their work in advance of the mere question of emolu. F. L. Olmsted & Co., Consulting Landscape Arch'ts. ment; while the emulation begotten in a rivalry so A. Gottlieb, Consulting Engineer.
ing, and to the Fisheries and United States as to serve as the monumental porch of the ExGovernment buildings. Southward this irregu- position. From the railroad terminus, through lar quadrangle is closed by the north façades of the arches of this porch and beneath its lofty the Mines and Electricity buildings.
dome, the visitors will enter the court, which is The lagoon connects southward with a sys- bounded on the right hand (south ward) by the tem of formal stone-bordered canals and ba- Departments of Machinery and Agriculture, on sins, where will be symmetrically placed the the left (northward) by those devoted to Mines, great plaza, or cour d'honneur, of the Exposi- Electricity, and to Manufactures and the Libtion, a regular quadrangle 700 by 2000 feet, eral Arts, and in front (eastward) by Lake about equal in size to that of the last Paris Michigan. The center of this court is occupied Exposition. Water-communication will be pro- by a great artificial basin which forms a part of vided for at the east end of this court, and the the water-system of the Park. Connecting with system of railroads will debouch at the west this basin, a broad canal, bordered by double end in a railroad terminus, masked by the Ad- terraces and crossed by arched bridges, will run ministration Building, which will be treated so southward into a minor court between the pal
VOL XLIV.- 12.