Religion and Innovation in Human Affairs
Grant Recipients 
Religion, Progress, and Innovation in the Contemporary World
After Burnham: Modernity, Religion, Tradition, Innovation, and the Future of Humanist Urbanism
Award Amount: $200,000
PI: Philip Bess
Sponsoring Institution: University of Notre Dame

Summary Observations and Major Outputs

The Project proposes that architecture and urbanism in Chicago and elsewhere—following the logic first of modernist and now of hyper-modernist premises—has largely gone astray since the mid-20th century. Taking the Daniel Burnham’s 1909 Plan of Chicago as an authoritative starting point, the Project proposes that Baroque urbanism and Catholic social teaching can help locate the modern metropolis in both nature and sacred order in ways both symbolically legible and humane. After Burnham, situating itself within the western tradition of humanist urbanism (and eo ipso humanist architecture), is here proposed in part as an exercise to demonstrate how that tradition can inform a present-day project that is future-oriented toward a telos; and further, is proposed in the expectation that the result of this tradition-grounded/future-oriented exercise will result in something recognizable simultaneously as both part of the tradition and “new and unexpected.” The chief outcomes of the Project will be 1) a speculative design proposal for the metropolitan Chicago region projected a century forward and 2) a book, tentatively titled After Burnham: Our Lady’s Plan of Chicago 2109, which will use the design work as the occasion for an intellectual critique of hyper-modernist architecture and urbanism, a philosophical defense of humanist architecture and urbanism, and a consideration of the necessary social conditions and prospects for the latter in an unpredictable future.

Philip Bess is professor of architecture at the University of Notre Dame. He was the director and principal designer of the Urban Baseball Park
Design Project of the Society for American Baseball Research. And he directed and coordinated the “Save Fenway Park!” charrette in 2000, which resulted in the adoption of many ideas now visible in the renovated Red Sox ballpark (including the seats atop the Green Monster). He has led numerous professional and academic urban design charrettes, mostly for small towns, city neighborhoods, or college campuses, including the 2010 Skaneateles, NY project, which won the Congress for the New Urbanism Charter Award Grand Prize in 2011. He has written a number of books, including Till We Have Built Jerusalem: Architecture, Urbanism and the Sacred (ISI Books, 2006); Inland Architecture: Subterranean Essays on Moral Order and Formal Order in Chicago (Interalia Design Books, 2000); and City Baseball Magic (Wm. C. Brown Publishing Co., 1991).

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