Burnham in the Philippines

The Philippine Islands, Vol. 2, Map of the Philippines

William Cameron Forbes, The Philippine Islands, Vol. 2, Map of the Philippines, 1928.

In the winter of 1904-1905, Daniel Burnham, the Chicago architect and future co-author of the Plan of Chicago, traveled to the Philippines.  He had won a commission from the United States government to develop a new city plan for Manila, the capital of the Philippines, and to design a completely new “summer capital,” Baguio City, 155 miles to the north of Manila and 5,000 feet above sea level in the mountains of Luzon.  The United States had gained possession of the Philippines in 1898 as part of its treaty with Spain at the end of the Spanish American War.  Determined to impose its authority on its new colony, the US government hoped that Burnham's plans would establish an American presence in the Philippines that was both imperial and progressive.  Burnham had eagerly sought the commission and set out for Asia in October 1904 with his wife, daughter, and a young architect from his office.  The group also included Edward Ayer, a Chicago railroad tycoon, Newberry trustee, and avid collector of materials about indigenous peoples.  Burnham’s friend W. Cameron Forbes, a young American government official, hosted Burnham during his six-week stay in the Philippines.

Forbes remained in the Philippines until 1913.  When he returned to the United States, he wrote this two-volume description of the Philippines and US government there, complete with illustrations and maps, like this one.  Baguio City appears almost due north of Manila.

This exhibition places Burnham's visit to the Philippines in historical context, revealing the tensions between Filipino nationalists’ struggle for independence and American assertion of political, economic, and cultural authority in the colony.