University of Wisconsin Digital Collections
Link to University of Wisconsin Digital Collections
Link to University of Wisconsin Digital Collections
Digital Library for the Decorative Arts and Material Culture

Page View

The craftsman
Vol. V, No. 4 (January 1904)

Urbi et orbi: to the city and to the world,   pp. 358-362 PDF (1.8 MB)

Page 358

HE City is a highly organized type
         of the general life of an epoch or
         people. It was, so to speak, the
         germ-cell of the antique civiliza-
 tion. As such, that is, as the parent of
 social life, it received a profound venera-
 tion which approached worship. It was set
 upon an hill, spiritually, as well as physi-
 cally. It represented t6 the Greek or the
 Roman all that is beautiful, safe, sanified,
 pleasurable, glorious. During the second
 organic period of society, that is, the Middle
 Ages, it was consecrated anew, passing on,
 like a fair and vigorous pagan, to canon-
 ization. The Holy City and the Church
 together formed one great concept, so that
 Beatrice, the personification of Heavenly
 Wisdom, called upon the purified soul of
 Dante: "Come, and I will make you a
 burgher of that City, whereof Christ is a
   The City therefore represents the highest
form and degree of socialism, if that term
be taken in its primitive sense of com-
panionship, solidarity, organized life and
effort. But with the rise and growth of
individualism, the ideal has suffered. Con-
sequently, the reality, the concrete thing
standing for the ideal, has lost a portion of
its force and life. The City has no longer,
as a whole, the religious, patriotic, artistic
character which once stimulated and pos-
sessed it.
   To restore that character in such modified
form as may be adapted, serviceable, essen-
tial to modern society is now the object of
a movement which is active, it were better to
say, irresistible, in both hemispheres. In
Europe, the movement is most inspiring, as
it is evidenced in Paris, that type of high
municipal organization, in Berlin, the capi-
tal created by men of blood and iron in the
face of natural disadvantages, in Dresden,
that fostering   mother of culture, and
throughout the teeming, laborious cities of
Belgium, where the Flemish Renascence and
the new art have met together in the work
of restoration and progress. In America,
the movement, the same in spirit, differs nec-
essarily in external evidences. It is a work
of expansion and development, tending to-
ward the embellishment, the sanitation of
the city, and the consequent moralization of
the urban population. With us, the man
who may be called the institutor of the move-
ment, has already passed to his reward.
But his works remain in the great tributes to
Nature, "more enduring than bronze,"-
because they throb with Divine life,-which
lie has literally planted in the heart of our
cities. The labors dropped by Olmsted at
his death are rapidly advancing among us,
to "the ruralizing of the city," but no less
toward the "urbanizing of the country,"
which, by his own confession, lie regarded as
an equal, if not a greater task.
   It would therefore seem as if we must
again accept the ideal city as the germ-
cell of our civilization-not again to wor-
ship it blindly as a fetish, but to honor it
with a calm, scientific spirit, to recognize
in it the essence of law, order and enlighten-
  The governing principles of the new uni-
versal impetus toward civic improvement
and municipal art, are admirably and pre-
cisely formulated in the constitLtion of the
National Society of Belgium. They are of
general application, containing   nothing

Go up to Top of Page