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

Warner, John Dewitt
The importance of municipal improvements,   pp. 362-367 PDF (2.1 MB)

Page 364

  First and most important of all are the
means of ingress and egress, and of trans-
port within the city. Upon such develop-
ment of the former as make it a center for a
locality, a state, a continent, a world-
absolutely depend the possibilities of any
given city. Upon the latter equally de-
pends the economy of a city's life and busi-
ness-in the long run the extent to which its
possibilities shall be realized. These, there-
fore, are the first essentials of a city plan-
the data with relation to which all develop-
ment must be had.
I These possibilities, however, are those of
a home, a shop, a caravansary, a place
for the life, the work, the culture and
the entertainment of human beings, ever
more and more free to choose the best op-
portunities anywhere offered. The pros-
perity of a city will, therefore, ever more
and more depend upon the extent to which
such demands are met. Next after the gen-
eral features of a city's plan come, therefore,
bright skies and abundant water; and-
scarcely less essential-cheap fuel and clean
   No mistake could be greater than that
which assumes Municipal Art engrossed
with, or mainly interested in, mere decora-
tive features. Rather is it true that in its
more essential features, a city must fairly
have achieved dignity and beauty and order
and cleanliness and convenience, before it is
fit to be generally decorated, or decoration
can be made really effective. These essen-
tials provided for, the beautiful-not as
opposed to the useful, but useful in whole or
in part because it is beautiful-can then well
be sought, and such civic adornment had as
shall serve religion-as atAthens, civic pride
-as in Florence or Buda-Pesth, or offer
hospitable welcome and attraction for resi-
dence and amusement-as at Paris; or ex-
press national ideals-as at Washington or
Berlin; or more or less equably meet or serve
all these-as at Rome or Vienna.
   Of this, perhaps the most essential item is
proper emphasis of Civic Centers-the arch-
itectural treatment of the city considered as
a whole. Indeed, this might well have been
included in the prerequisites for adornment.
And the finest examples of such emphasis,
serving as they do the convenience and the
dignity of the city, are striking arguments
for the truth that, in its last analysis, fitness
for use is the normal of beauty. That
public business can best be transacted at the
most natural place for greatest public re-
sort; that the various classes of such busi-
ness can be transacted most conveniently in
the neighborhood of each other; that, in pro-
portion to the variety and amount of public
business to be provided for, economy per-
mits and popular sentiment dictates exten-
sive and imposing architectural groups,with
park and plaza treatment; and that foci
thus developed are the points at which may
best be located the more important transport
connections-each is obvious. Combined,
they show the ideal of a city to be that of an
organism, rather than of an aggregation.
From the standpoint of utility as well as of
art, a thoroughly developed and dignified
civic center with secondary local ones, as
naturally characterizes an ideal "city" of
to-day, and distinguishes it from the mere
massing of humanity that has sometimes
been called such, as does a definite head with
well defined subordinary vital centers a man,
as distinguished from a jelly fish.
  As to the general importance of beauty
to a city's welfare, there are few who do not

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