Chicago Architectural Club Competition: Burnham 20/20

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The Chicago Architectural Club (CAC) is pleased to announce the 2020 Burnham Prize Competition: Burnham 20/20. A call for entries is taking place as of April 30th, 2020 with the announcement of the winning entries in September 2020.

The 1909 Plan of Chicago, also referred to as the Burnham Plan, presented a progressive vision for the city of Chicago. It focused on six elements and aimed to provide a comprehensive and coherent strategy to address the city’s unregulated development creating conditions to improve commerce and reflecting on the way people live in a modern urban environment.

CHARGEThis competition aims to explore the social agenda supporting Burnham’s vision, which he addressed in his draft of the plan and which included issues such as the enhancement of public space and the promotion of neighborhood schools and daycare centers. Burnham’s intended vision was “Not the beautification of the city, but it’s humanization.”

Now, in 2020, Chicago is very much a product of systemic issues that have been neglected and ignored despite the social intentions of Burnham’s original draft plan. Furthermore, Chicago is facing a new set of challenges. In contrast to the rapidly growing city of the early 20th century, today’s Chicago is shrinking. In addition, Chicago is confronting global challenges including water and air pollution, climate change, and the current health emergency due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

For the 2020 Burnham Prize, the Chicago Architectural Club is calling for new visions that address the humanization of our city. Looking at Chicago’s future and reflecting on today’s challenges, formulate your interpretation of the Burnham Plan that expresses the needs of our time. Through a project, series of projects or a larger plan, define one or more elements that address current urban issues and that are able to contribute to the design of a more “human” city.

• How do Burnham’s observations translate in today’s city and which new topics should be addressed?

• How can we design a more “human” city today? Do existing planning and design processes sufficiently address the complexities inherent in our city today?

• If the 1909 Plan of Chicago still serves as a reference in urban planning, looking forward, how can Chicago act as a laboratory for urban and architectural innovation for cities of the future?

SITE AND PROGRAMThe project site is the City of Chicago: Competitors will define and address one or more topics of their choice that reflect the needs of our time.This is a speculative ideas competition. There is not a set program for this competition; your definition of the program is part of the design problem. Proposals can focus on one or multiple topics and can be anything from a holistic vision at a large/urban scale to a more focused architectural intervention. Submissions will be assessed on their identification of the issues and the design proposal’s efficacy in addressing these issues.

ELIGIBILITYThe 2020 Burnham Prize Competition is open to anyone with a vision for Burnham 20/20: students, architects, landscape architects, urban designers, planners, designers, and artists.

AWARDS• 1st Prize: $1,500• 2nd Prize: $1,000• 3rd Prize: $500Honorable mentions may be awarded at the discretion of the jury but will receive no cash prize. Select projects will be featured on the websites of the Chicago Architectural Club, and multiple other partner agencies; in the official competition catalogue; and are to be exhibited in a special event at a Chicago Cultural Institution--Further information will be provided in January.

JURYA jury of notable professionals, academics, and public officials will decide the competition winners. The jurors will be listed on the Competition Website (

Entry information, including a complete set of rules, can be found at

The 2020 Burnham Prize is organized by the Chicago Architectural Club and supported by AIA Chicago.