The campaign for tenement-house reform, lately rewarded by splendid results, has been a step in the right direction. Its bearing on the building laws is one of the most important benefits. The provisions calling for greater court area and other features calculated to relieve crowding and to assist natural ventilation should be made even more sweeping and extended to all classes of buildings.
To improve the housing, for rich and poor, and to make a city more healthful generally, we must aim to relieve this excessive crowding. A good beginning has been made by the fight for small parks. More of these breathing spots are needed, sorely needed. Healthy playroom for the children of those unbroken rows of flats is hard to obtain, but it must be secured, if only to break up the monotony of brick and stone and relieve it with some wholesome vegetation, cooling, purifying bits of nature. Even if limited to a single block, small parks could be utilized for schools, as is done frequently in smaller towns. This would be really the ideal way of securing their full benefit, the children profiting in the day, adults in the evening, and the neighborhood all the time. The plan of locating public buildings and schools on open squares or parks may be luxury in country towns, but it is a necessity in large cities from a sanitary point of view. This idea, once recognized and rooted, might be the wedge for a new method of securing sites, of making the school the excuse, or rather the necessity, for another small park. It should at once be adopted in outlying districts where space is less expensive. The finest sites set apart for public institutions have never been found too good and always will prove the best investment of public funds from every point of view. It can not but influence the private owner to plan and build with a broader purpose than the immediate commercial gain, which has demoralized the arts and crafts, the architecture of the day, and will be a testimony to future generations of the materialism of our age.
To bring daylight into the dwellings of the ignorant masses is to educate them and to banish dirt, filth and disease. More light incidentally brings more air and purer air. But there is need for sanitary reform also in the dwellings of the rich. It should begin with more sensible building plans, a return to simplicity in design and construction with a view to inducing salubrity as the first principle of hygiene. It is not so much the quantity of air that is to be considered, but rather the quality. Let us have not only more air, but purer air, as from the open country or the sea. Sanitation of the air is a lesson taught by nature. Civilization must apply it for humanity, for the wholesome enjoyment of life to all.