Architecture Astray

I

THE spectacular nature of the huge buildings now rising in the big cities of America has brought her architecture very much to the forefront. Always ready to prize and applaud any concrete manifestation of her civilization, the country has marveled at the tremendous height attained by the skyscraper. Even England, prejudiced and for a long while skeptical of the good taste of the American, has at last been willing to accept it within the field of art.

In his own country the American architect has become a person of prestige unparalleled in Europe. Not only are his buildings discussed in the popular press, where he himself is an earnest exponent of the new age, but the name of his profession is even correctly pronounced by the man in the street. On the sidewalk, knots of persons gather and gaze upwards at the workmen silhouetted against the sky on the steelwork of the sixtieth floor. In the street car, ordinary folk dispute the relative heights of the Bank of Manhattan Building and the Chrysler Tower. Cultivated people, who for so long regarded the skycraper as a fearful monstrosity, have come to admire it, and it may be said without contradiction that in America architecture is now regarded as the foremost of the arts.

University teachers, perceiving the change in cultivated taste and pointing to the increasing number of European students in American schools, extol American architecture with patriotic enthusiasm. Traditionally regarded as conservative, they thus transcend their predilection for the past as opposed to the present and consider themselves advanced thinkers. The professional press itself, mostly interested in advertising, is loud in its praises; critical correspondence is taboo, and it publishes laudatory articles by architects on the work of their contemporaries and friends. Parallels are found in history which prove that in the greatest ages of culture architecture has invariably been the forerunner of all other arts, and that therefore its prosperity in the United States predicts a bright future in every field.

Yet a careful analysis of American architecture reveals surprisingly little which can really be termed modern. In fact, in the whole evolution of art, as it expresses with inevitable faithfulness the civilization from which it emanates, there is nothing so remarkable as the undue amount of extraneous influence which has been brought to bear on American building and the paucity of genuine, contemporary architecture. In the face of the skyscraper, accepted as the hallmark of the art in America, this must seem a sweeping statement, but a critical examination of the whole field of architecture as it fulfills, or attempts to fulfill, all the varying needs of her twentieth-century civilization shows such an insignificant extent of the truly modern as to be wholly out of proportion to the immense amount of building. In fact, it may be said that American architecture has been modern only as the inevitable outcome of an emphatic twentieth-century need — where utilitarian considerations have unavoidably assumed preëminence over the intellectual predilections of architects.

To the credulous European — and there are many, despite the multitude of voluminous philosopher-critics who flow through New York — this will seem strange, for he accepts everything American as being of necessity ‘modern.’ None the less will it surprise the credulous American — and there are many, too — who readily accepts the dictates of his architectural advisers. The European marvels at the sky line of lower Manhattan, the American at the scholastic attainments of the architect. The judgment of both is superficial and irrelevant. It has taken no cognizance of the relationship of art to the age which produces it. Neither novelty nor scholarship is a virtue of art, for architecture, if it is to be alive and vigorous, will express the contemporary need of the day fulfilled with contemporary science. On such a basis alone can the architecture which America is producing to-day be judged. The criterion of the architecture of any age is its ‘efficiency.’

II

We have already gone counter to current opinion in asserting the absence of modern architecture in America. When we assert that American architecture lacks efficiency, popularly regarded as the dominant aspiration of the country, we might seem to add insult to injury. And not only are we raising the hostility of those who assume that efficiency is one with the disordered state to which uncontrolled mechanical evolution has brought our civilization, but in applying the same criterion of efficiency to the past we are antagonizing those who have studied the history of architecture as a spiritual unreality, in the light in which it is popularly represented, and who regard it as a phenomenon of beauty quite divorced from worldly usefulness.

It is the unreal study of the past, fostered by teachers, universities, and schools of architecture, particularly in America, which is chiefly responsible for the popular ignorance which exists to-day. The flow of adjectives and trite and hackneyed expressions, tempered by religious bias, which usually passes for serious criticism of temples and cathedrals has conveyed a very false impression of the why and wherefore. In the constant efforts of the bogus antiquary to find a symbolical interpretation for every feature in a building, however obvious its structural necessity, the columns of temples have been supposed to have originated in the representation of the ‘pillars of Heaven,’and the Gothic nave in the architect’s endeavor to reproduce an avenue of trees. Such a warped approach to the masterpieces of the past can only be regarded as provocative of much amusing reading. To imagine that the intricacies of the Gothic vault were a serious attempt to imitate the interlacing of the boughs in an avenue of trees is indeed a poor compliment to the mason. He was concerned with no such fantasy, but with the immense problem of covering a great space with a stone vault — a new type of construction advanced by the greatest mechanical knowledge of the day as a cure for the disastrous fires which had resulted from wooden roofs. His whole interest was in obtaining the maximum area of covered floor space for the worshipers with the greatest economy of materials. To achieve his end he invented the shaft, the vaulting ribs, and the buttress — a form of construction both scientific and economical. The resemblance to trees (if any resemblance exists) was entirely incidental, and only the license of a poetic imagination is justified in associating the nave of the mediæval church with ‘the arcades of an alley’d walk.’

The history of mediæval architecture is one of gradually increasing efficiency in stone construction. An examination of other features of ancient architecture which have been given some romantic meaning will reveal a logical argument for their existence which all the picturesque veneer of the ages cannot obscure when they are rightly studied. Architecture has been, and will be, great only in so far as it satisfies the requirements which give rise to it. The standard by which it must be judged is the degree of success with which it fulfills, with the best workmanship and the most suitable and economical materials available, the demands of the client, whether he be a Pharaoh demanding an everlasting tomb, a priest of Athena Parthenos demanding a temple, a Cæsar demanding an amphitheatre or triumphal arch, a mediæval priest demanding a monastery, a Renaissance potentate demanding a palace, or a modern industrial concern demanding a factory.

If we have studied the past with understanding, we shall have discovered that the Pharaoh received his pyramid, as secure as the age could contrive to build it; that the Cæsar received his amphitheatre, huge and monumental, to unite the citizens of Rome, even in their recreation, in patriotic enthusiasm; that he received, too, his triumphal arch, designed to awe his subject peoples in a distant land; we shall have discovered that the mediæval priest received his monastery brilliantly planned according to his needs. Not until the Renaissance did the dilettante artist presume to exercise his personal preference for styles and become the dictator of fashion to the cultured aristocracy. The client of to-day alone prejudices the purpose of his building by conforming to the fastidious palate of the overeducated architect.

For this the architect and the layman are equally to blame. The client willingly succumbs to the architect and places infinite trust in him. The architect has studied in one of the renowned schools of architecture, he has been abroad, he has aspired to the mysterious École des Beaux Arts, — a certain proof of his genius, — he has passed through the cathedrals of France and England, sketchbook in hand, and has measured and reconstructed some Classic ruin in Italy. Proof of his genius is to be seen in the antiques which adorn the Gothic reception room of his office on the thirtieth floor. How can a man be better equipped than with such a background to design a railway station or a canning plant? So argues the simple client as he waits in the reception room and is duly impressed. He himself was probably raised in the Middle West, and reached his position by hard work and by understanding the men and things with which his business brought him in contact. But now he faces something outside his own sphere, something which smacks of scholarship and European culture. He is conscious of his ignorance of the intellectual snobbery which it represents. To him it is no snobbery, but the manifestation of deep learning. A magnate in railway construction or in cans, he is no magnate in learning. So, in due course, his railway station dons the garb of imperial Rome or his canning plant the armor of mediæval Chartres. In his great philanthropic work of promoting the art of architecture the locomotives and the cans are forgotten; yet I believe a future generation, studying the arts of to-day, will recognize the locomotives and the cans as æsthetically the greater.

We may seem to dwell at undue length on the past. But this is because we wish to emphasize that identically the same standards of criticism apply to both past and present. The skyscraper apartment block and the thatched cottage do not differ except in degree. Nor is the phenomenon which we observe to-day without parallel in antiquity. Those who deplore the barbarism of a past in which sound, economical, and ordered building was the necessary accompaniment of good living do so on grounds of twentiethcentury ‘progress.’ forgetting that ‘progress’ is a new discovery of unproved worth.

III

It would seem, then, that the present state of architecture, which we dare to criticize so severely, is no sudden, postwar development, but that it dates back to the fourteenth century. Since that time architecture and building have become more and more divorced from each other. It has been a time of revivals, Roman, Greek, Gothic, Romanesque, Byzantine, according to the erudition of the historian and the archæologist. It has been a time when art has become a means for expressing culture and class, the monopoly of the wealthy, exemplifying their good taste and their punctuality with fashion. Art has indeed found learning to be a tyrant.

The revival styles in England made their début with the renaissance of Classic art. But we have only space to consider the Gothic revival. The Laudian revival of Gothic was too near to the original to be successful, for the original style was not then old enough to have acquired the necessary mystery, nor its civilization sufficiently removed to have received the glamour of age and the popularity and advertisement which it later received in the novels of Sir Walter Scott. But at the end of the eighteenth century, with Horace Walpole and his ‘Strawberry Hill,’ the Gothic style had begun to be accepted as sufficiently cultivated for the enjoyment of society. Evelyn, in the early days of the Renaissance, when the imported Italian manner had been the only possible expression of taste, had thoroughly condemned it as barbarous and uncouth, and in derision had labeled it ‘Gothic,’ a name which it permanently retained, and which, in a later generation in the mouth of John Ruskin, was to express the very essence of æsthetic beauty in architecture. Gothick Architecture Improved, by Batty Langley, published in 1742, is the significant title of a book by one of the first advocates of the Revival. Such are the inconsistencies of dilettantism.

Looking back on the Gothic Revival with that detached and disinterested sympathy which our attitude towards a revival style makes possible, we cannot but regard the earliest works of the Gothic revivalists as their most successful. They had not yet been restricted by the investigations of the archæologists and the limitations imposed by the formation of academic rules. Among the best works of the Gothic Revival may be counted Thomas Rickman’s New Court at St. John’s College, Cambridge, built as early as the eighteen-twenties. But Rickman himself was one of the first to seek further knowledge, and himself chose to label and standardize the study of the ancient style with a complicated division into ‘periods.’ These periods are still the student of architecture’s Euclid. So, knowledge of the antique progressed, and modern architecture declined in proportion. Sir Gilbert Scott, renowned Gothicist and restorer of cathedrals, describing himself as ‘amongst the most scrupulous and conservative of restorers,’ said that his object had been ‘to show that Gothic would admit of any degree of modernism.’ Sir Thomas Jackson, another distinguished Victorian architect, came to the painful conclusion: ‘We must value Gothic art chiefly because it, rather than any other we know of, is so congenial to our times that it may fairly be expected to live again in modern soil, and to fructify and give birth to a new and living art which we can really call our own.’ So, the Gothic Revival flourished in England; likewise in America, taking her cue from the mother country. We, today, have not yet discarded this outworn philosophy.

If we except the Indian pueblo, which must here be counted with the classics, the whole history of American architecture has fallen within this period of revivals. We must review it briefly in order to appreciate to the full its present position. American architecture originated in the Georgian mansion, transplanted to the colonies as little changed as was possible, and, in fact, so like the original that students of the Colonial period have difficulty in discovering those characteristics peculiar to it which their researches necessitate. Even the porticos of the plantation mansions of the South, so essential in the hot climate, were built, at first, with reluctance. Then Thomas Jefferson introduced his conception of the Roman manner and promoted it with enthusiasm. Much as we delight in Monticello, we cannot but observe its variance with the characteristics of Roman architecture as he had pictured it. The Greek Revival reached the most remote outposts of the Middle West. It produced a remarkably high standard of scholarship and a consistent adherence to the correct formulæ of the Greek style. In the Greek Revival, America never permitted herself the freedom and originality of a Sir John Soane. The Gothic Revival followed, equally zealous. It is indeed to be regretted that so many admirable examples of these two periods have disappeared in the wake of commercial building, hardly appreciated during the vogue for the Georgian re-revival, and unrecorded by the historian. The Romanesque Revival of H. H. Richardson, the peculiar product of a single individual, but nevertheless of wide influence, illustrates admirably the illogicalities and the wastefulness of a revival style. The World’s Fair at Chicago, of 1893, undoubtedly a more finished exhibition from the architectural standpoint than any since, diffused the Classic style with renewed spirit. In the Transportation Building, Louis Sullivan, the barbarian, endeavored in vain to stem the advance of the Roman legions. The importation of French teachers for the schools of architecture, imbued with the training of the École des Beaux Arts, now became a new and powerful influence.

But America, even after such a profound training in the classics as we have outlined, had yet to graduate in the school of McKim, Mead and White, a firm without counterpart in Europe, which can only be described as producing design which was the last word in refined taste and academic correctness. With them the Roman legions advanced into every type and size of building, transcended function and purpose. It might almost be said that what the Roman Empire had not time to accomplish was realized by McKim, Mead and White with expedition.

While ready to condemn the archæological prejudice which colors architecture to-day, we are now in a position to sympathize with it and to understand, to a great extent, the power in America of a background which it is manifestly so difficult to overcome. Again, so much good work has been accomplished in stylistic periods, in spite of them, that even against his good faith the architect is tempted everywhere to fall back on precedent and design in the accepted manner. But however scholarly, however well-read, his design may be, it is impossible to avoid the truth that such work starts from the wrong angle. It differs fundamentally from the original style, as it was once the living expression of a civilization, in that the architect no longer starts from the standpoint of function and material. It is true that he may fulfill the requirements of function, and, at times, of material, with surprising efficiency in spite of the limitations which the style imposes; it is true that the client will believe that culture or advertisement has been satisfied; but the architect is seeking to hide the demands of a new age under an antique veneer absolutely unrelated to it. Whatever his success may be in such counterfeit, his architecture will never be great, for it will never be genuine. In reality it is a cowardly inability to keep pace with the age, and an endeavor to hide it under a mask of erudition.

IV

Among the most absurd results of the archæological prejudice are the Gothic universities of America. Falling back upon Oxford and Cambridge for precedent, the American college has produced some of the most remarkable inconsistencies of our time. It is indeed strange to find modern scientific institutions clothed in architecture which expired more than five hundred years ago on another continent. And in no other class of building have the limitations imposed by an antique style been more acutely felt. Gothic architecture, made of little stones, with little windows of little panes of glass, was built at a time when it took centuries for what can now be accomplished in a few months; when big stones could not be quarried or handled, and when plate glass was unknown, so that little windows were unavoidable. Is it not ridiculous that this inferiority complex of the American university should express learning in such a retrogressive manner? Yet, this is intended to be serious architecture.

The quadrangles of Yale — a tour de force in Gothic, and admirable enough had they been erected in a museum — illustrate the limitations of such design, and the manner in which it prejudices efficiency. They are somewhat smaller than the average court at Oxford or Cambridge, but have been built higher to provide more accommodation, without any increase being made in the size of the windows. The rooms are thus unduly dark. At the same time a rough plaster of dull shade has been used in the interiors with the intention of producing an antique effect, though quite contrary to mediæval precedent. And, as if with his tongue in his cheek, the architect, having thus far reproduced the antique antiqued, completes the illusion with scattered repairs in broken panes of glass. It is like the Chinese tailor who, when given a pair of old trousers to copy, reproduced them with the patches in the seat carefully imitated. The only difference is that the Chinaman was concerned with a pair of trousers and the American with a great seat of learning.

It is unnecessary to refer further to the numerous colleges throughout the country which are enshrined in Gothictracery, with battlemented towers from whose prototypes the warriors of the Middle Ages shot their arrows at the enemy. One only wonders at the inconsistency of the professor of some abstruse branch of science who departs from his medæval office, through its Norman archway, without donning armor and a helmet and buckling on his sword and shield. At Pittsburgh the new ‘Cathedral of Learning,’ a skyscraper university, is rapidly nearing completion. Gothic in its detail, but unavoidably modern in its massing, it is a line building despite its Gothic veneer, for it has been quite unable to overcome the natural beauty inherent in its size and form. There is no precedent in Gothic times for forty floors. Like the Woolworth Building, however Gothic it may appear in the eyes of the American, it has no counterpart in antiquity, and its modernity is in spite of its architect.

England, lacking the romantic nature of the American, is tiring of the Gothic collegiate style and has sought to try her hand once more at the Renaissance. But she is still unable to divest herself of the Gothic entirely, and in the new buildings for the University of Cambridge ordered planning has been entirely ignored; the various buildings erected for new branches of science, although principally of Classic design, have been scattered about with an indifferent disorder far more fitting to the Gothic, and quite at variance with the exact ideals of the scientist. In England the conservative, stylistic outlook is as much marked as in America, and the English architect has not benefited to the same extent by the saving grace of as sound an academic training. Whether this is not, in the long run, an advantage I do not know, but one cannot but wonder at the continuance of the tame Renaissance mannerism, tempered here and there with Egyptian detail, which still forms the major part of English architecture, despite the propaganda of the modernists and despite a limited amount of advanced Gothic design which the modernists dare not criticize for fear of destroying all inspiration. The Wren tradition — and it has been truly said that English Renaissance architecture should be spelled with a ‘ W ’ — lasted for a very long time, and it is still dying.

The standard American railway terminal, with its rows of columns, is hardly less remarkable than the college. The criticisms which have recently been directed against the Pennsylvania and the Grand Central terminals can be attributed, to a great extent, to the limitations imposed by Classic design, accepted, quite unwarrantably, for the great majority of American railway stations. One wonders indeed at the strange conservatism which clothes so magnificent a field for design as the modern railway in the architecture of ancient Rome, and studies the possibilities of ‘Spanish Mission Architecture for Railway Stations.’ Such is the title of an article in a professional periodical. At the Pennsylvania the taxicabs have to fit into the intercolumniation of columns, and at the Grand Central avoid immense stone piers, when steel and concrete construction could have provided the minimum area for supporting members. Efficiency has been placed second to the interests of Classic design. In London, which has never been renowned for its railway terminals, they consist usually of a track, a platform, an adjacent hotel, and a war memorial. But adequate approach is at least a virtue in which they excel over those in New York. The Greek Gateway at Euston can never be regarded as anything but a white elephant, and, after the Euston Waiting Hall and the great Shed at St. Pancras, it is almost the only piece of railway architecture in London which remains on the memory. The Waiting Hall at Euston, built in 1847, was founded upon Peruzzi’s great chamber in the Massimi Palace in Florence, dating from the early sixteenth century. The Pennsylvania Terminal in New York, finished in 1910, goes back as far as the Baths of Caracalla, in Rome, of the third century!

The American capitol building is another incongruity, adopting universally the manner of the French provincial city hall. This is one of the influences of the French Beaux Arts teachers. The State Capitol of Nebraska, alone, is an American capitol building. City halls have followed the same model. Much as one admires the scholarship and the knowledge which lie behind the design of the City Hall of San Francisco, such a building is no genuine product of our age, as anyone must feel who enters its lifeless interior. One only regrets that the dome and cupola were not the product of Mansard in the seventeenth century, for this could then have been counted as one of the three finest Renaissance domes in the world, along with Mansard’s dome of the Invalides in Paris and Wren’s masterly dome of St. Paul’s Cathedral in London. The French Renaissance of Classic architecture has had no competitive style in the buildings for the Government at Washington.

Recent ecclesiastical architecture both in England and in America has been irrevocably Gothic. A leading American architect, with a profound admiration for and technical knowledge of the thirteenth century, which he reproduces with astonishing accuracy and minute attention to detail, even asserts that modern American ecclesiastical architecture is the equal of the mediæval cathedrals and churches of Europe! He has a very large ecclesiastical clientele and his work is the admiration of the romantically-minded. But there are two architects who, though Gothic revivalists, belong to quite a different field. One is an American and the other an Englishman, and their work bears a striking similarity. It would be impossible not to think that they had profoundly influenced each other were it not that their work is of a trend which one would expect at this time as a natural reaction to the intensely accurate revivalism to which we have referred. Bertram Grosvenor Goodhue, whose free interpretation of the Gothic style has been such a healthy influence, became at length the architect of two such radical buildings as the Public Library at Los Angeles and the State Capitol of Nebraska at Lincoln. But an early death terminated a career which might have produced a masterpiece of modern architecture. Sir Giles Gilbert Scott, grandson of the celebrated Victorian architect, but influenced by the free design of his teacher, Temple Moore, has in his Liverpool Cathedral, won in competition in his early twenties, produced a building as little Gothic as conservative standards would allow. Liverpool Cathedral is the end of t lie Gothic Revival, and in this fascinating product of our times one may see plainly the revolt against the binding and cramping weight of mediævalism which must ultimately free us from prejudice and fraud.

V

The modern custom of deploring the ugliness and discomfort of our cities is a habit belonging to a new and unhealthy state of civilization. That it is merited is only too apparent, but it comes at a time unequaled in all history for its tremendous opportunities for building, not only, in America, from economic circumstances, but from the magnificent opportunities of new materials, such as glass, steel, and concrete.

Adopting the attitude which sees architecture in relation to the day which produces it, and carrying the term to its logical conclusion as embracing planning and the convenience of the city, an examination of New York will reveal the evils of the skyscraper and of the absence of a wisely preconceived plan. What it is customary to admire in New York is no more than a manifestation of its overdevelopment. New York is probably the supreme example of the inability of human beings to direct their own destiny.

We may accept it as being one of the first stages in the overdevelopment of a city when the business districts become uninhabitable to a degree which necessitates commutation from other more habitable areas, and the consequent waste of time in transit. It is hardly necessary to place New York in this category, for this is a stage in the new concentration of population which all cities of any size have long passed. The position of New York by the sea has so reduced the suburban area that it has become necessary to commute from very considerable distances. In addition to this, traffic congestion in the streets has become so acute that it takes longer to reach the down-town districts by road, or by congested suburban transit, than to travel by train from outlying districts into the centrally located terminals. But it is unnecessary to complain further of the condition of congestion. It has been enlarged upon often enough by those who have some personal interest to gratify by some minor or irrelevant cure. It is due to no other cause than the fact that the floor area of buildings is quite out of proportion to the facilities for traffic. The fault, without question, can be laid, in a literal sense, at the door of the skyscraper.

It has become too much the custom for architects and others, endeavoring to justify so singular a production of the American civilization as the skyscraper, to commend it without reason. One of the foremost architects of New York, writing recently in a leading newspaper, proclaimed the district about the Grand Central Terminal as illustrative of the value of coördination of various types of buildings in a limited area. He was certainly correct in this, but he described the congestion of the streets as no worse than in certain European cities, and forgot, in what was a very doubtful statement, the fact that the Chrysler and the Lincoln Buildings were not at that time completed. It seems only reasonable to suppose that the congestion of that district is no worse only because it could not possibly become so; and the traffic, realizing the fact more easily than the architect, as it may well do, circumvents it and enters it only when bound to do so.

While surface transportation has become a means of recreation for leisured people rather than a serious method of transit, public transportation by subway and elevated trains has proved quite inadequate, and it is impossible to believe that it can ever be otherwise. The building of subways in New York is of tremendous expense; unlike the tube railways in London, they can only be built immediately beneath the surface of the roadway, and even then at the cost of cutting through rock and providing steel support for roads and buildings above. Moreover, when all possible subways have been constructed, they will still be insufficient. These facts can only be regarded as prohibitive of any real solution to the problem of congestion, particularly when we take into consideration the fact that the elevated railways, ruining all property by which they pass, must eventually be torn down and their passengers sent into the subway. Added to this will be the increase in value of the property now fronting on elevated tracks; mean houses will be replaced by skyscrapers whose occupants must once more multiply the subway crowds. At present every extra train which the subway companies are able to rum rather than relieving congestion, only serves to aggravate it by permitting more people to travel, and consequently the erection of still higher buildings. The public’s lowering moral standard of congestion cannot keep pace indefinitely with congestion’s increase, even though, with the fewer numbers of passengers on Sundays, it has shown itself willing to accept the same measure of congestion due to the shorter Sunday trains! For increasing congestion cannot, forever, be as acceptable as the weather. It may be said with confidence that the part played by town planning in proportioning buildings to open spaces, to streets, and to transit, with the intent of the proper functioning of the city, can be counted as negligible.

VI

This town planning, whose absence we deplore, is the backbone of civic architecture. New York will never be a great city. She can never hope to be more than a collection of great individual buildings, and this does not constitute a city. Uncontrolled development has reached a state where nothing can be done to save her beyond the tickling of the suburbs by some occasional well-meaning body, or some minor legislation to relieve the further encroachments in the city proper of individual interests on public welfare. It has been proposed that, in rebuilding, every block should be forced to adopt a complete architectural treatment. By such means some approach to civic architecture would be obtained, and a certain uniformity created such as is now found in the big apartment houses on Park Avenue, north of the Grand Central Terminal, or on La Salle Street, about Jackson Boulevard, Chicago. In these two instances the single façade to each block produces a rhythmic order in the cross streets which is quite lost with the usual irregular sky line. The endlessness of the streets has made an axial position, even for the chief municipal buildings, almost unknown outside Washington. Such a site — the only one in New York — has not been fortunate in its treatment. The absence of axial positions for buildings is one of the many evils of the gridiron plan. Another is the fact that the gridiron plan gives equal importance to streets in either direction, one of the chief causes of congestion, for it is when one stream of traffic has to cross another at right angles on the same level that congestion occurs, far more so than in the increased volume moving in one direction.

In condemning the uncontrolled height of buildings it would be unjust to ignore the tremendous opportunities which the skyscraper presents for architectural design. Its size, alone, is an attribute of which the old-world architect may well be envious. The skyscraper has passed through a progressive evolution, and the prerequisites of this type of building have, in recent years, been met with surprising success. The skyscraper has no counterpart in antiquity, and, as might be expected in a type of building with such novel requirements, it has escaped the more easily from the clutches of the archæologists.

Nevertheless the skyscraper has had to pass through the revival period, in which the façade has been covered with a veneer of Gothic shafts and tracery or Classic columns. Its early examples were a veritable catalogue of the orders, from the sturdiest Doric at the base to the most delicate Ionic at the top. This phase has now gone for good, but the second phase is still in progress. In this the columns are confined to the lower and upper floors, binding several floors together on the façade with complete disregard for what is behind them. Only in the newest of the skyscrapers has the absurdity of this type of irrelevant design been fully appreciated and the third phase attained. In this the windows or floors themselves, in either horizontal or vertical treatment, are accepted as the principal motif of architectural expression and as the unit of scale for the whole building. This is now the guiding principle for the design of the best of the recent skyscrapers. Of necessity the architecture of New York is becoming more logical. With the exception of one influential firm in Chicago, New York is the hub of the American architectural world.

Whether the skyscraper has from the owner’s standpoint reached its greatest height, — and it has done so long ago from the standpoint of the public,— it has certainly reached it from the practical point of view. The skyscraper cannot be built to a greater height on the area of a single block than that of the highest already built. Engineering ability can certainly build higher, and elevator cables can, no doubt, be constructed sufficiently strong to sustain their own weight, but the point has been reached when the increased number of elevators necessary to feed the increased floor area becomes so great that it leaves no rentable area in the lower part of the building. As it is, at present, spaciousness, so necessary to dignity in architecture, has been sacrificed, and the ground floor of the skyscraper has been almost entirely taken up with vestibule and elevator access, scarcely leaving room for window show space and the stores required for the inhabitants of the building. To obviate this difficulty it has been proposed by a New York architect, whose knowledge of skyscraper construction exceeds his appreciation of public welfare, to build a single building on four city blocks, covering in the streets and lighting them and ventilating them artificially. That it is possible to construct it need not be doubted, but, with conditions as they are, it is inconceivable that traffic facilities could, or would, ever be provided to meet such a building.

The course of true architecture in America may be found in the steel frame of the skyscraper, — evil as such an institution may be from the social standpoint, — in the grain elevators of Chicago, in the steel mills of Pittsburgh, and in the highroads and the great bridges and dams throughout the country— wherever, in fact, the dilettantism of the architect has been unable to exert itself. But the course of true architecture is very limited, and unappreciated as such even where it is found. It happens unavoidably, where art is of no consideration, in big engineering creations and in buildings of purely commercial purpose. It seems unreasonable that, in an age of such opportunity as this, one should question the progress of architecture, but it is most certainly questionable. We have reached a state of overeducation and overdevelopment. The architect has been doing too much ‘designing’ and the lay public has been too much interested in ‘art.’ There is no cure but to rid ourselves of prejudice and see our age in perspective. Only by so doing will it be possible for our architecture to become true architecture and great architecture.