Burnham, Luzon Building featured in PBS documentary

Daniel Burnham, the late architect who designed the former Luzon Building in downtown Tacoma, will be the focus of a documentary airing next week.

According a statement released by Historic Tacoma, “Make No Little Plans: Daniel Burnham and the American City” explores Burnham’s career and legacy as a person who shaped some of America’s best-known places and spaces. The film is narrated by Oscar-nominated actress Joan Allen, and combines digital models, original drawings, personal letters, and animated graphics to highlight dramatic developments that transformed both Burnham and the American city, including the early development of the skyscraper, the impact of the 1893 World’s Fair, and the physical reconfiguration of existing cities, including our nation’s capital.

“He had a personality that was as big as the subject of cities,” explains architect David Childs, a Fellow of the American Institute of Architects, and one of many noted commentators in the film. “We should care about Burnham because he was part of a group that changed ideas about planning and architecture and because of the fact that our cities are full of the history that he caused to happen.”

The documentary will air on KCTS at 11 p.m. on Mon., Sept. 6. For more information, visit pbs.org/make-no-little-plans.

A year ago this month, contractors demolished the 119-year-old Luzon Building after the City of Tacoma deemed the historically significant building a safety hazard after decades of neglect.

Designed by Burnham and fellow architect John Wellborn Root, the Luzon Building was one of the first high-rise towers on the West Coast, the embodiment of engineering genius — sturdy brick shell, cast iron columns, and wood construction on the upper floors — that allowed the building to top out at a soaring height for 1890s Tacoma. It was an engineering model that would be copied and opened the door to the future development of “skyscrapers.”

Daniel Burnham, the late architect who designed the former Luzon Building (pictured) in downtown Tacoma, will be the focus of a documentary airing on PBS next week. (FILE PHOTO BY TODD MATTHEWS)


To read the Tacoma Daily Index‘s complete and comprehensive coverage of the Luzon Building, click on the following links:

Todd Matthews is editor of the Tacoma Daily Index and recipient of an award for Outstanding Achievement in Media from the Washington State Department of Archaeology and Historic Preservation for his work covering historic preservation in Tacoma and Pierce County. He has earned four awards from the Society of Professional Journalists, including third-place honors for his feature article about the University of Washington’s Innocence Project; first-place honors for his feature article about Seattle’s bike messengers; third-place honors for his feature interview with Prison Legal News founder Paul Wright; and second-place honors for his feature article about whistle-blowers in Washington State. His work has also appeared in All About Jazz, City Arts Tacoma, Earshot Jazz, Homeland Security Today, Jazz Steps, Journal of the San Juans, Lynnwood-Mountlake Terrace Enterprise, Prison Legal News, Rain Taxi, Real Change, Seattle Business Monthly, Seattle magazine, Tablet, Washington CEO, Washington Law & Politics, and Washington Free Press. He is a graduate of the University of Washington and holds a bachelor’s degree in communications. His journalism is collected online at wahmee.com.