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the white city

The Chicago Worlds Fair used Modernism to construct its site. Modernism was crucial to the cities development. It brought about new thinking that was able to aid in city planning. Many architects and leaders found at the end of the 19th century that new office skyscrapers were individually very impressive but they did not connect with the city as a whole. This look led to the belief that city designs occurred randomly and not planned out. Confusion was the result and few important people attempted to come up with a solution. The solution to eliminating the chaos in cities was largely influenced by the Columbian Exposition in 1893.

The Columbian Exposition helped change the confusion in the layout of cities. The Columbian Exposition was part of a World’s Fair held in Chicago that marked the 400th anniversary of the arrival of Christopher Columbus in the Western Hemisphere. Landscape architects such as Frederick Law Olmstead and Daniel Burnham planned the Exposition. Their goal was to showcase a design that made a cohesive group through the layout of their buildings. The work from Olmstead and Burnham caused Chicago be renamed as the “White City”.  It was given this name because of the shimmering white colored buildings that were used and because the Fair was incredibly well run and planned out. The “White City” gave people an impression of the city of having no poverty or crime. The “White City” gave Chicago a positive image, which was very different from previous years before the Great Chicago Fire. Before the fire, Chicago had the impression of being gloomy and dark. The great planning and execution of the Exposition changed that image forever.

The “White City” buildings were all designed with a classical Roman Style. This style of architecture sparked construction of large-scale classical public buildings. City halls, art museums, and public libraries started to be made using the Roman Style. This became a new form of public building construction as architects and governments found that this classical architecture was very appropriate and appealing. The Supreme Court building became a good example of this style.  From a distance the classical temple of the building is obvious, but up close it shows a degree of simplification that connects it with the art deco modernism movement.

Besides the World’s Fair having an impact on public buildings, it also sparked the idea for many cities to start to strategically planning the layout of their urban landscape. Many cities installed permanent urban planning boards or committees to make certain the land was being maximized as efficiently as possible. City leaders for the first time realized there was a need to be sensible and systematic plan because there seemed to be chaos in too many urban areas prior to this realization. This made the urban cities so much better, and aided many cities in becoming part of the global community. Establishing a planning committee for cities became known as the City Beautiful movement and lasted from 1893 until the great depression in 1930’s. The goal of the City Beautiful advocates was to improve the city through beautification. They thought this would lead to several positive effects on the city. The planners thought city beauty would inspire civic loyalty and moral rectitude in the impoverished. They also thought by bringing beauty to the American cities it would bring more culture similar to their European competitor’s cities. The last thing the planners hoped would happen was that the upper class would want to live in the urban centers, or at least spend money and work in them. Through these three effects planners thought American cities would be able to play a more important role in the global community.

Therefore the Expostion sparked innovation that was clearly used throughout the city and the rest of the world. The fair aided Chicago into allowing it turn into a Global City by using planners and the unique style of architecture. Thanks to the Worlds Fair, Chicago is a city that can play a big role in the global community.

– Jeremy


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