The Commission of Fine Arts, at the National Building Museum
For some good long time now, I have been helping friend, TV producer and director, and Chicagoan Judith McBrien put together a two part/one hour each PBS series on the life and work of Daniel Burnham. I have conducted a number of interviews for Judith, noted here on the blog, and today was my turn to be interviewed, in the conference room of the U.S. Commission of Fine Arts. The Commission was established in 1910 to implement the 1902 McMillan Commission Plan, authored by Burnham and his colleagues Charles McKim, Frederick Law Olmsted Jr., and Augustus St. Gaudens, and ably assisted by Burnham’s eventual biographer, Charles Moore. The Commission today is housed in the National Building Museum, so it was old home week for me.
Judith enlisted another friend, former Washington Post architecture critic Ben Forgey, to interview me, and we had a great time this afternoon talking about Burnham and Washington, Pierre Charles L’Enfant, Chicago, Burnham’s many colleagues, the 1893 World’s Fair (my favorite ’93 Fair statistic: population of US in 1893 – 65 million; attendance at ’93 Fair – 27 million), and the Next City and learning from Burnham.
Judith is hoping to see this two part series included in PBS’s program called The American Experience, sometime in 2009. Tomorrow I get to join her, and the Congressional Sergeant at Arms, on the west terrace of the Capitol, to shoot the Mall that Burnham helped to create. I can hardly wait!
Ben, at left, and drawings of Burnham’s DC plan on the wall.