What to Take Away from the Daniel Burnham Forum on Big Ideas

The Daniel Burnham Forum on Big Ideas kicked off on July 7 at the Chicago Cultural Center, where the respective presidents of the American Planning Association, American Institute of Architects, and American Society of Landscape Architects gave lectures on what to expect in the next 50 years. All presenters discussed what their disciplines can contribute and where their focus is for the next few decades. As expected, all three presenters overlapped slightly on certain issues: climate change, collaboration, urbanization, etc. ASLA's highlighted their sustainable sites initiative and the phrase "create, educate, advocate, and collaborate." AIA's president spoke of the technological, sociological, and design and building typologies phenomena's from the past few decades and what they mean for the next few. APA summed up the lectures with research, infographics, and statistics about what to expect in the next 50 and where to start today.

There are a few ideas, quotes, maps that really stuck with me. First, Jeff Potter, president of AIA, informed the crowd that "climate change is real." I applaud Potter for just coming out and saying it. I know there are still skeptics out there; I know a few. How can we tackle sustaining Earth if not everyone is on the same page? The bubble we live in will not last our lifetime; climate change is coming. You might not feel the effects yet, but take a trip to some of the small islands in the south Pacific. Ask them about the changes they have seen in the past few years (Here's a great resource: http://www.epa.gov/climatechange/.) Even, Silver, president of APA, spoke of how North Carolina needed to come to terms with climate change. The climate is changing, for the worse, and sustainability ultimately needs to be taken more seriously. 

Tie that in with Susan Hatchell's, president of ASLA, statement: "Change comes incrementally." Hatchell was speaking about how she hopes ASLA's initiatives will become standards in the next 50 years. What could be more true? Most initiatives take time to catch on for society as a whole; the urban renewal of the 1940s and massive, sprawled suburbs made sense for awhile to most. New Urbanism is a great example; CNU has only grown in the past 20 decades, doubling the number of members and initiatives. Change takes time. If we start now with even just brainstorming, we will be on the path to success in the near future.

All three presenters identified that they will not be here to see the changes take place, or their initiatives become standards. But, it should mean something to the younger generation that they are trying, starting, attempting to make some solutions out of the current problems. Mitchell Silver, president of APA, said it best: we need to ask ourselves: what we need to do today to be here in 50 years? With all of the research he presented, Silver seemed to have a good grasp on what is to come in the next 50 and where the three organizations can start planning, designing, and collaborating.

I urge the multidisciplinary members of these three organizations, as well as CNU and more, to start the brainstorming process. The lecture series has identified the problems and concerns they believe our disciplines are faced with for the decades; now it is the members job to further educate and problem solve like we all know we can.

The next part of the Daniel Burnham Fourm on Big Ideas is September 30 in Washington D.C.: International Trends, Domestic Impacts.
If you missed the lectures, check out APA's Daniel Burnham Forum on Big Ideas


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