If you haven’t noticed, we’re big Daniel Burnham fans here at EIM. As an early architect and urban planner in a city known for its architecture, his vision can be seen on nearly every street of Chicago. In 1893, Burnham played an integral part in the World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago – arguably his greatest accomplishment. This historic global event focused the world’s attention on Chicago and specifically 800 acres of land known today as Jackson Park, located in Hyde Park on the south side of the city. If Burnham can be credited with the majesty of the White City, it is his shared vision with landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted that has endured, albeit a tarnished vision.
120 years ago these two giants of urban development had a plan for Chicago that took advantage of our natural shoreline, envisioning a 6-mile stretch bookended by Grant Park on the north and Jackson Park on the south. As it stands today, only one end of this plan has been truly realized.
This incomplete dream brought forth a modern visionary inspired to fulfill this promise. Robert Karr, a principal at Chicago law firm Masuda Funai Eifert & Mitchell Ltd. and executive vice president of the Japan America Society of Chicago has always been drawn to the park and particularly the rich historical connection it has to Japan. During the Exposition, Japan built the Garden of the Phoenix – the single largest contribution of any foreign nation. The stunning pavilion represented Japan’s cultural introduction to the western world and significantly influenced Frank Lloyd Wright’s Prairie Style. Over time, neglect and post WWII vandalism left the site in disrepair. Now the area is simply referred to as the Wooded Isle with little more than black and white photos recalling its former beauty.
Initially, Karr and the Garden of the Phoenix Foundation wanted to renew interest in the site and improve this gem by the planting of Cherry Blossom trees. But as they dug deeper into the unique story behind the garden and the grand vision for the park, it became clear that more had to be done to fulfill the original promise of our nation’s master architects.
Project 120 was born
“When you go down there, it’s less than inspiring,” says Karr. “It has the potential to be one of the most innovative urban parks in the nation, where science, nature and humanity can be experienced and explored.” And thus the vision was greatly expanded from the original inspiration of a reborn Garden to the resurrection and reimagining of Jackson Park and its untapped potential.
A long standing associate of EIM, Karr turned to our agency to assist in this bold enterprise. Over the coming weeks we will develop a communication strategy as the foundation reaches out to the local community, civic leaders, and potential corporate sponsors. Through unique interactive experiences, social engagements, and fundraising initiatives spanning from Kickstarter campaigns to corporate outreach, we will look to inspire others to embrace the historical and cultural significance of Jackson Park and support the foundation and city’s efforts.
EIM could not be more energized to put its creative muscle behind this inspired initiative. Stay tuned for updates on our progress. In the meantime for more background on Project 120, read this feature from Crain’s Chicago.