Virtual Burnham Project



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About the Initiative

Chicago has been many things: a city in a garden, the city that works, the windy city, the city of big shoulders, the black (industrial city), the second city, etc.

Here, we bring you the City that Never Was.

The Virtual Burnham Initiative (VBI) transforms a selection of flat images from the 1909 Plan of Chicago—by Daniel H. Burnham and Edward H. Bennett into 3-D models accessible through this website.

Specific structures from the Plan, as well as two representative maps, are available as “layer” downloads for Google Earth, a free global navigation program.

Additionally, the VBI will provide links to (1) historical content, specifically the rich Edward H. Bennett archive housed at Lake Forest College, and (2) contemporary content from partners including local schools, regional planning organizations, and cultural and educational partner institutions.

Moreover, the VBI does what is impossible in the real world—we have produced a 3-D exploration of structures that previously existed only on the pages of a historical document.

Users will not only experience this history in new ways, but will be part of one of the first Google Earth projects to create content that never existed in the real world.