Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 37.djvu/222

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work that reaches a respectable age, while that done by the government undergoes a rapid decay. The difference between the ancient and the modern method is enormous, and it needs no guide to tell which is the better. In our time, in our country at least, government architecture is considered of more importance for its effect on the "boys" than for any direct relation to the progress of art. There is no limit to the expenditures that are made on our large public buildings, but they are no sooner completed than extensive repairs are necessary that not infrequently amount to as much as the original cost.

Nothing could be worse than this, yet it is happening every day. Our streets are lined with hideous structures and comfortless dwellings. Lighting and ventilation, plumbing and heating, and all the requirements of our daily life, are sunk into subordinate positions beside the questions of external effect and the support of a large number of political hangers-on whose interest in architecture terminates with the job. It is evident that this can not be continued indefinitely. Sooner or later there will come a revulsion in public feeling, and an insistence that our architecture shall express our civilization in its fullest development, regardless of designs or exteriors. The direction in which we are working is essentially bad; and it is manifest that, if they did things better in past time, when utility was the prime consideration, the sooner we return to primitive methods the better it will be. It is a lasting disgrace to our culture that the Bushman and the Hottentot, the Indian and the Patagonian have ideas in architecture that put our own attempts to the blush and will render us a laughing stock to posterity. The instincts of animals, even, teach them ways and means of construction that are far in advance of the methods of the men of the nineteenth century. Did not the wise man say go to the ant and consider her way and be wise?

The architecture of the past teaches us many facts of interest and value, but none more important than this, that a building must express an idea. It must not seem to be what it is, but be it, without any uncertainty or doubt. In the structures now going up around us, in this land as well as in other lands, this essential element is apt to be found wanting. There are too many buildings that need repairs and alterations before they can be occupied. There are too many structures erected for external effect, without due regard to the planning and the use to which they are to be put. There is too much drawing of pretty plans and elevations on paper, without proper attention to structural requirements. There is too much haste, too much careless management, too much poor construction, too much attention to detail, too much bad taste. As a result, our buildings are bad in conception and execrable in execution. We must not condemn a build-