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

Gans, Charles
The workingman's dwelling in France,   pp. 367-377 PDF (3.9 MB)

Page 370

ical point of view. Subsequent to the estab-
lishment of the Republic, the reformer had
no longer to make allowance for this obsta-
cle. But the other difficulty continued to
exist. It was of first necessity to give to
these tenements an appearance agreeable at
least, if not attractive. This problem was
not without presenting great difficulties.
   However well-intentioned builders may
be, they are controlled by an important
consideration for which they must first of
all make allowance. This is the question
of cost. They must arrive at a very low
cost price. Otherwise, the desired end will
not be reached. It is further necessary that
the rentals be sufficient in number to com-
pose  an   amount   representing  interest-
money proportionate to the capital invested.
Hence the necessity of not losing an inch of
ground, of lodging the greatest number of
persons possible, with the sole reservation of
leaving to each a space sufficient to satisfy
the requirements of hygiene and morality.
These are obligations which relegate aes-
thetic considerations to a secondary place.
On one hand, the tenement house, that is to
say, the building several stories high, des-
tined to lodge numerous families at a small
cost, can not derive beauty from either its
form or its structural materials. Certainly,
a skilled architect can, by certain simple ar-
rangements, produce an interesting effect,
but this effect will be one which will appeal
only to critics and experts.
  The builders had, therefore, the choice
between two courses: either to leave the
house absolutely plain, or to apply to it
ornamentation at low cost, of which the
general pretension to elegance would be far
from justified.
  Of these two solutions, it is plain that the
first is the better and worthier. Extreme
simplicity is much nearer beauty than the
pretentious and often ludicrous attempts
made to give a semblance of elegance to a
facade. Unhappily many builders have
believed themselves justified in making con-
cessions to the bad taste which is too fre-
quent among the people, and have sought to
attract tenants by the pretended richness of
their exteriors.
   Workingmen's dwellings, dating from
different periods, are found in considerable
number, in the large cities, notably in Paris,
Lyons, Bordeaux and Marseilles.
   In Paris, in the Rue du ChAteau des Ren-
tiers, that is to.say in the heart of an artisan
quarter, tenement houses among the first of
the reformed type were constructed by M.
Odelin. They are seven stories in height,
with a faqade which strives to be in the
Louis Thirteenth style. The stories are
2m.65 in height. Each apartment consists
of an ante-room, a bed-room, a dining-room
and a kitchen. The walls are papered and
the ceiling ornamented with a cornice. Gas
and water are carried throughout the build-
ing, and the largest rent is six hundred
francs the year. From the point of view
of space and price, as well as of hygiene,
these apartments are excellently designed.
But they have the defect to which we have
already alluded: the desire of affording them
an attractive appearance and a cheap ele-
gance led the builders astray, and if the
lodgings have a healthful influence upon
the minds of tenants, the Louis Thirteenth
fayade and the attempt at fictitious luxury
have a deplorable effect upon their taste.
  The tenements erected in Paris by the
Philanthropic Society are much more simple
in appearance. They are massive, square

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