Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 38.djvu/213

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in an unsettled condition and was infested with freebooters. A change passed over society; laws were enforced, police regulations made, society became settled and calm, fortifications disappeared, and in their place arose châteaux and pleasant villas that were admirably suited to a free and peaceful life. Each style, in fact, originated in the various operations of natural conditions; each form had an evolution of its own, that had as definite and as readily ascertained causes as those which produced the evolution of any other form of culture. Reason and common sense, usefulness and intention, were the great factors on which—all architecture rested; and when these things were neglected—when an arbitrary decree of fashion or the development of a new "taste" became the criterion by which all buildings were judged architecture fell. This calamity occurred with the introduction of the Renaissance in the fifteenth century, and its results are still apparent.

Natural conditions are apt to be forgotten in this busy life of ours. We have no time to spend in applying the problems of perspective to architecture as did the ancient Greeks when they used curved lines instead of straight, in order to correct the distortion caused by distance. Our crowded cities, where land has reached fabulous prices per foot, afford no opportunity for taking advantage of the conveniences of an ample site. But, though we may not be able to concern ourselves with such matters, there are a multitude of other details that can be attended to which are now more or less neglected, and which, were they intelligently treated, would remove much of the present reproach from our architecture.

For many hundred years architecture has been occupied with solving problems presented by Nature. In earlier times life was comparatively simple, and artificial needs were few and easily satisfied. Now, however, we have countless mechanical contrivances that have entered closely into our lives, and the problems of architecture take a different range. Steam and electricity have revolutionized society. They have brought the furthermost parts of the earth into intimate connection. Our lives are one continuous hurry, and the laggard is soon left behind in the rapid march of progress. In the cities land is scarce and valuable, and room is only to be had by expanding upward instead of laterally. Inventive genius has supplied us with elevators, steam heat, electric light. Questions of public safety, correct sanitation, guards against fire, protection against burglary, safe means of rapid ingress and egress, have formed other conditions. The spread of manufactures, the making of artificial building materials, as iron and glass, have given us new forces. New methods of business and the constant and rapid introduction of new occu-