This section is from the book "Ideals In Art: Papers Theoretical Practical Critical", by Walter Crane . Also available from Amazon: Ideals in Art: Papers Theoretical, Practical, Critical.
By Lionel F. Crane
Sketch for Collective Dwelling containing
Sixteen Cottages with Common Dininghall, Kitchen etc. Scale
Section of the dwelling
Section Of Courtyard Looking Towards Main Entrance•
section The Courtyard Showing Dining Hall.
Lionel F. Crane or collective homes, should not have dignity and beauty, as well as the comforts of a home combining provision for the necessity of privacy, with the social advantages of a common room, and the economic and continuous advantages of a common kitchen.
It should mean that the administration, the housework, and the cooking would be done by trained hands, and one would suppose that the load of care to devise the recurring scheme of the daily dinner, etc., now so generally pressing on the poor housewife, might thus be lifted, and a great waste of individual effort saved.
The old plan of the quadrangle would be an excellent one for a co-operative dwelling: one side of the squareior wing opposite the entrance gate might be occupied by the dining-hall and public rooms, the other sides might contain the private rooms or be divided into separate dwellings with separate private entrances on the outer sides: on the inner side connected by a cloister which would enable the occupants of the private rooms or separate dwellings to pass to the public rooms at the head of the quad. A formal garden might occupy the centre of the quadrangle with a fountain in the centre. Such a scheme has, I believe, already been proposed to be tried in one of the London suburbs.
From the decorator's point of view the plan and scale of such collective dwellings might afford fine scope for art: the large public rooms such as the hall and the common dining-room, might be simple and dignified with panelled walls, leaving space above for a continuous frieze of figures, or divided into separate subjects illustrating local history or legend, poetry, romance, or symbolism of life and nature.
Frescoes by Ford Madox Brown
Town Hall, Manchester
Frescoes by Ford Madox Brown
Town Hall, Manchester
The true place, however, for the decorative perpetuation of local history and legend is the Town Hall, and it is satisfactory to know that this principle has been thoroughly recognized in at least one important city of England and in a modern Town Hall. I allude to the frescoes of Ford Madox Brown which vividly and dramatically illustrate the history of Manchester and her worthies, and appropriately decorate the walls of the City Hall.
In Birmingham, also, I believe a scheme of painted panels has been devised to illustrate local history, and students of the Municipal School of Art have competed for the design of these. This seems an excellent idea which might be generally adopted. Every town which has municipal buildings and a municipal school of art might do much not only to stimulate public spirit and local feeling, but also materially to help young students and designers by giving them an opportunity of doing public work and thus getting practice in the highest kind of decorative art - mural painting.
Surely if we have any pride of place, if we regard our towns and cities as something more than mere mills for money-making we must feel how greatly their interest and beauty might be added to in such ways as these, as well as public parks and gardens, fountains, trees along the streets, and seats and shelters. Indeed, having regard to the future of our race, and the importance of space and open air and surroundings of some beauty to the healthy growth and upraising of children, it becomes a public question of pressing importance, this of the conditions of life in our cities, housing, and house and school building and decoration.
One remarkable demonstration or object lesson has been given, owing to the initiative energy and philanthropy of Mr. George Cad-bury at Bournville near Birmingham, which I was afforded the opportunity of seeing the other day. He has proved, at least (even as William Morris did), that factory work may be carried on amid pleasant surroundings and means of recreation for body and mind, and that a working population can be housed in close proximity to their work in picturesque and cheap healthy dwellings, surrounded with ample gardens and pleasant trees.
The Garden City Association is also in the field with Mr. Ebenezer Howard's scheme for uniting agriculture, horticulture and manufactures, with beautiful and healthy dwellings in garden cities which will, it is hoped, relieve the overcrowding of our great towns, and bring back the people to the country with all the conveniences and advantages of well-organized city life, and moreover enable the inhabitants to become the collective owners thereof.
The rapid means of escape from towns which modern invention and commercial interest and enterprise have placed within reach of the town dweller - while they suggest that modern cities are not meant to dwell in - by those who can get out of them - may to some extent counteract the ill effects of an artificial existence, at least among some classes of the population, but I think a certain restlessness is induced which has its effects - even upon decorative art. The modern mind seems more easily fatigued, and to require more constant and rapid change. This restlessness, no doubt accelerated by the effects of grime and smoke, leads to the desire for more frequent change of colour and pattern in the living rooms, than formerly. This, it may be said, is healthy, because it is "good for trade" - for the painters' and decorators' trade, that is. One of the drawbacks of modern life, however, is the existence of trade organizations that are prepared to supply (on the shortest notice) any atrocity which may be in demand - indeed, I am not sure that supply does not in some cases create demand, and I suppose he is but a poor salesman who cannot persuade people to buy what they do not want - it may be some passing whim or phase of public taste, or want of taste; but the circumstances which are good for such trade cannot be expected to evoke much artistic enthusiasm. What is "good for trade" is not always good for human beings, either in the making or the using, of which we have often had evidence, but trade, or profit, is the modern fetish to which, apparently, all other considerations are expected to bow.