thank you letter
To Architect Burnham
The surname Burnham is very well known in the city I come from; it is associated with the main breathing space of Baguio City (Philippines)--Burnham Park. I grew up knowing that Burnham is from America, never knowing that one day I would share the same profession as this much-respected man. A thank you letter such as this one should be written by people from Baguio for his making possible a beautifully crafted urban abode. It is my pleasure to take the lead.
Very few people from Baguio ever bother to learn about you-- from the man who visualized and created our city. I must apologize that many Filipinos do not bother to differentiate between an engineer and an architect; reason why many mistakenly refer to you as Engineer Burnham. Fortunately for me, I am blessed with the good fortune of being an architect and know that we should always hold you in high esteem as "Architect Daniel H. Burnham."
It seems unfortunate that you never saw what became of the city you envisioned in 1904; the one which you created for just 25,000 inhabitants. Your vision for our city was a well-thought one; with a central axis that runs from the city hall, through Burnham Park (yes, it was named in you honor), and through the opposite "end" where you placed the government center. The best thing that our leaders did was to follow most of your original concepts; these remain as the best-planned portions of the city. Over time, our leaders have forgotten your lead and have opted to take our city towards a different direction (in terms of planning). Most such actions have lead to regret.
Your design for our city was to have ample, tree-lined avenues and boulevards, numerous public parks, and lush greenbelts that would provide space to breathe and relax in during weekends. You aimed for beauty in the midst of a metropolis, driven by your “City Beautiful Movement” that promoted the concept of the connection between physical beauty in an urban landscape and the increased sense of civic and moral responsibility of its inhabitants. I think your design intent came into fruition on the former; while on the latter, I have to apologetically state that success has only been partial. Our city has not been able to live up to the City Beautiful level as it did in your other city projects particularly as it did in Chicago.
Baguio has ballooned into a population which is now over ten times your intended number of occupants; and has definitely reached a level of gross over-population. Despite this, people continue to visit--if only to say that it has lost the "Baguio soul" that it had in the past. Regardless, the city you designed will aways be my city: the place I was born in, raised, educated; and where I have raised my own family.
Allow me to end by stating that to me the "intimacy of place" you have integrated into Baguio is the very "essence of the place"--where people readily feel the closeness of the people they meet while in it. I am pleased to let you know that you have definitely succeeded in imbibing such into the fabric of the city. As I come home to my city, I humbly write this thank you letter to the man who has made this possible.
In humble gratitude,