Daniel Burnham and His Engagement of Manila Plan

Journal: Hines, T. S. (1972) ‘The Imperial Façade: Daniel H. Burnham and American Architectural Planning in the Philippines’, Pacific Historical Review, 41(1), pp.33-53

Journal: Hines, T. S. (1973) ‘Modernism in the Philippines: The Forgotten Architecture of William E. Parsons’, Journal of Society of Architectural Historians, 32(4), pp. 316-326

Book: Burnham, D.H. and Bennett E.H. (1993) Plan of Chicago. New York: Princeton Architectural Press.

Book: Hines, T.S. (2009) Burnham of Chicago: Architect and Planner. 2nd Ed. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Book: Schaffer, Kristen. (2003) Daniel H. Burnham: visionary architect and planner. New York: Rizzoli.

Book: Peterson, Jon A. (2003) The birth of city planning in the United States, 1840-1917. London: The Johns Hopkins University Press.


Book Cover

This series of bibliography deals with Daniel Burnham as an American architect and urban planner, including his projects in both fields. A summarized biography and his engagement of the Manila Plan are as following.

“Make big plans; aim high in hope and work, remembering that a noble, logical diagram once recorded will not die, but long after we are gone be a living thing, asserting itself with ever-growing insistence.” – Daniel Burnham

Daniel Hudson Burnham (1846 – 1912) is the leading American architect and urban planner in the late 19th century. His architecture work demonstrates the Classical Beaux-Arts Style, including the Flatiron Building in New York City, Union Station in Washington D.C., and several skyscrapers in Chicago. His master plans show his advocacy of City Beautiful Movement, such as 1901 Washington Plan, 1903 Cleveland Group Plan, and 1905 Manila Plan. (City Beautiful Movement and the Precedents of Manila Plan.)

In early years, Burnham was rejected by Yale and Harvard and worked in the firm of Carter, Drake and White in 1872. Therefore, in his architectural education, he learned as an apprentice at the office instead of formal architectural academia. Within one year time, he persuaded the chief draftsman, John Wellborn Root, to establish the partnership with him in Chicago, Illinois. The partnership lasted for 18 years until Root’s premature death of pneumonia in 1891. After Root’s death, Burnham renamed the firm as D. H. Burnham & Company. The firm rose to fame after the directorship of Chicago’s World’s Fair in 1893. Following such accomplishment, he was commissioned the planning of Washington, Cleveland, San Francisco and eventually the Manila plan in 1905.

“It was Chicago with its World’s Fair which vivified the national desire for civic beauty.” –Daniel Burnham

Manila was the colony of the United States from late 19th century to World War II (1898-1946). Shortly after the US settlement in Manila, the US government commissioned Daniel Burnham to conduct the city planning for Manila. Burnham stayed in Manila for six weeks for the on-site investigation. In 1906, he returned to the United States and handed in “Report on Proposed Improvements at Manila” to Taft, the Secretary of War. This marked the terminal of Burnham’s official engagement with Manila. However, Taft gave Burnham full authority to appoint an architect to execute his plans in Manila, and that opportunity went to William E. Parsons, a graduate of Yale and Columbia. William Parsons stayed in Manila from 1906 to 1914 and constructed several buildings in Manila, including Philippine General Hospital, Manila Hotel, Normal School, Provincial Government Building and the University Hall in the University of Philippines. (The Executed Public Institutions of Manila Plan)


1 Comment on “Daniel Burnham and His Engagement of Manila Plan

  1. The materials collected are very comprehensive about Burnham’s influences. However, the narratives could surround Burham as an American planner who tries to implement western methodologies in city planning, and his reasons for doing so in a colony. Why did he chose Luneta as the new administrative centre? Why was the water front important? Why was the Spanish fortification kept aside from the top-down scheme?

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