Thomas Babington Macaulay Macaulay.

The Architect & engineer of California and the Pacific Coast (Volume v.46-47 (July-Dec. 1916)) online

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give him protection against the community, organized opposition on his
part can defeat such proposals. The conversion of the real estate inter-
ests to citv planning is the crux of the whole movement. A document like
the recent "Report "of the .\dvisory Council of the Real Estate Interests
in New York Citv" is therefore of the utmost significance. It may mark a
definite turning of the tide. It is an almost complete reversal of the atti-
tude of ten vears ago, when the first limitation of the heights ot build-
ino-s in Boston excited real estate rage as an attack on the rights of the
free-born American citizen. Real estate has now, it seems, turned against
its own skyscraper. It admits that the "present almost unrestricted power
to build to' any height has resulted in injury to real estate and business in-
terests and to the"health, safety and general welfare of the city. It ad-
mits that 'light air and access, the chief factors in fixing rentable values,
have been impaired bv high buildings and by the proximity of inappropri-'
ate or nuisance buildings and uses.' Here it is quite at one with the pub-
lic These are exactly the things which the community is interested in
keeping unimpaired and which the intelligently planned oity does keep un-
imimired ' \ certain degree of order and uniformity in building develop-
ment is desirable from tlie point of view of public safety and weltare, and
is essential to the safety and prosperity of real estate interests This is a
far cry from the spirit which has built our chaotic cities— the fierce insist-
ence on the right of every man to build as he liked on his own property.

-The Report of the Real Estate Interests" goes still further. It calls
for severe restrictions in the use of private property by the establishment
of zones or districts, asking the citv authorities by public action "to do for
the individual owners what the}- cannot do for themselyes - set up uniform
restrictions, that will protect each against his neighbor and redound to the

benefit of all." . , x- a- i . i

How refreshing these statements from the New \ ork report are, and
how promising for the future of American cities. It looks as if we can now
a^ree that the planning of public features and the control ot the use ot pri-
vate land of a citv must both be done as parts of one city plan. The char-
acter and width of streets, the capacity of transportation lines, the location
and extent of public parks, must each be fixed with direct relation to loca-
tion use and character of private buildings, the density of population, etc
Therefore the restrictions imposed by the public control ot private real
estate serve the interests of property owners as well as the community at
large, and are essential to the stability or increase of land values.=^

^ r~f„ll ill-sdission of the legal aspects of the public control of private real estate, see Chapter
III. by Frank B. Williams, Esq., in the new volume on City Planning in the National Municipal League

96 TIic ArchilCi-l and liiii^iiiccr

The larycr i)art of the subject oi real estate and cit_\- iihimiing has to do
with land subdivision especially as it relates to suburban property on the
outskirts of cities. \ow the controlling purpose of land subdivision is
]jrofit, to make money, as monev is made in other forms of lousiness, 1)y
dividing- and in some cases making ■"improvements"' in such a way as to
realize the largest possible profit. We do not say that this should not be
the controlling iiurpose, nor that it controls always or even usually to a
degree open to criticism. We are merely stating a fact that must not be
lost sight of. Indeed, the owner or operator who subdivides the land often
considers very definitely the eflfect of the plan upon the purchaser or user
of the land, and also upon the public, but this consideration is, and I think
1 may add, must be subordinate. His controlling purpose is profit.

a" fair question for consideration here is, should the form and character
of the subdivision of land be determined by the will of the laud owners,
whose main motive is profit? If not, who have claims for consideration,
and upon what do such claims rest? Is land different other things
that are bought and sold?

There are really three parties to every land subdivision : the owner or
operator ; the prospective user, either as owner or tenant ; and the public.
Surely it would represent a great advance if we could come to look upon
these'three parties as partners in a common enterprise with certain over-
lapping interests in the proper subdivision and sale of land.

Therefore the central problem of land subdivision is public regulation,
coutrol and restriction. In fairness to all concerned, what should the real
estate operator be authorized to do in this very important matter of divid-
ing up and selling his property, thus changing agricultural acres into city
and suburban lots, determining their form and use, from which they can
be changed again, if at all, only at great cost.

The principle of restrictions in the subdivision and use of land is well
understood in the United States and very frequently applied. In fact, it is
so well understood and so highly valued that it is most often applied in a
thoroughgoing way by the real estate operator himself in his own interest.
The restrictions placed upon a purchaser in the conveyance of a plot of land
often include a long list of the kinds of business which are classified as
nuisances, and which may not be established or maintained upon the prop-
erty ; regulation as to stables and garages ; fences and walls ; set back of
buildings from streets and from lot lines; minimum cost of buildings; ease-
ments and rights of way for public utilities ; and in some cases, even the
approval of plans and specifications of buildings, including their nature,
shape, kind, height, material, color scheme and location ; also the grading
plans of the plot to be built upon. These restrictions, or, as some operators
happily term them, "safeguards," are often placed for a period of twenty-
five years or more with the right of renewal subject to the assent of the
owners. All this is far-sighted and desirable, provided the restrictions are
intelligently determined. But can we depend entirely upon the knowledge,
skill and motive of the owner or operator to subdivide the land and place the
restrictions? At best his action is dependent upon his own judgment, and
sometimes this judgment is at fault. The restrictions are applied only in
spots which he happens to control, and often when most pul)lic-spirited,
are not always intelligent. Again, it should be repeated, his chief motive
must be profit. He cannot reasonably be expected to have consistent and
permanent concern for the results of his methods upon the future occu-
pants of the property, nor ujion the general public. Then, as has already
been suggested, he docs not always know what is best, and if he did, not

The Architect and Eiv^tuccr 97

owning- or controUins;- all the prnperty of the city ..r tuwn, or even of the
entire neighborhood unit in which he is working, he would not be able to
make his plans effective. I-'urthermore. he has only the power of a pri-
vate citizen.

Some of the underlying principles of land subdivision which concern
real estate owners and those who have to do with the planning problems
of cities may be stated as follows :

1. A plan for the subdivision of property should fit the t.ipography and
give due consideration to natural features. The American gridiron plan
has not been a success even for cities built on level ground. Its evils and
cost when applied to cities with a rough topography are now widely
understood. , , ,

2. Even if the land is relativelv level, the plan should nevertheless have
interest, good organization and design. The point of view that leads to a
good arrangement of streets and lots on hilly ground gives also a good ar-
rano-ement on level ground. \\'itness the competition for the subdivision of
a quarter section of land carried on bv the Chicago City Club. Although the
land was described as level, none of the three plans awarded prizes followed
in any way the characteristic checkerboard plan which usually prevails on
such property in American cities. . .

^ The use that is to be made of the land should determine its general
plan and restrictions. It mav be said that there is no plan that is best tor all
places, nor for the same place for all time. Merit m land subdivision is
largely a question of fitness for its original purp.ise, and Us adaptahUity
for probable future purposes.

4. Main thoroughfares and other broadly related city planning teatures
such as large parks and public reservations should be located first, and
within these lines and in conformity to them, local streets and blocks and
lots should be laid out in the best possible manner.

T The various standards for various classes of property, the lot
widths and lot depths, the block widths and block depths recognized by
the best authorities should be applied with skill and discrimination. These
are bv no means absolute or fixed; they are still open to discussion, and
in each case are largelv matters of experience and nice judgment. Still,
there is some recognized law. !"or instance, the minimum requirements
of detached, of semi-detached and of row h,iuses, in which tor this pur-
pose there is substantial agreement, determine largely the width and depth
of lots; the width and depth of lots determine largely the size ot blocks;
and the blocks determine the lav-out of the neighborhood. All these in
turn react upon street widths, playgrounds, and other public features.

6. An increase of lots or residence sites by new land subdivisions and
of the necessarv streets should also be accompanied by a proportional in-
crease of school sites, plavgrounds, parks and other indispensable public
features required bv the estimated probable population of the area when
fullv built up The best time to make these reservations of public spaces
is when the land is originally subdivided. The cost then would be low. and
should be assessed in accordance with the benefit.

7. The interests oi the real estate owner or operator, of the pros-
pective owner or user, and of the general public, should be harmonized as
far as possible. In most cases this is not so difficult as it might seem.
While the immediate interests of the three parties are not identical, they
are not in the long run normally in conflict. It is part of the responsibility
of the public, acting through well considered and equitable regulation - '
law. to remove the causes of conflict and thus to define the rights
duties of the several parties.


98 Tlic .Irchitcit ami liiii^iiiccr

8. A plan for dividing land should consider nut only its immediate use,
but also its probable subsequent use, administration and maintenance, and
should endeavor to forecast and provide for it. This may be done in part
by the ])lan itself, and in part by binding restrictions, safeguards and con-
ditions providing for permanency on the one hand, or it may anticipate
a change or conversion into a different future use, on the other hand.
Opini(_)n of designers differ as to which is mtjre desirable, a plan that makes
change difficult or one that makes change easy. Here again it is a mistake
to dogmatize. One thing is clear, however, even from a superficial study
of land subdivision in its relation to city planning, namely, that the worst
results have not been due usually to the low standard or the lack of fitness
of the subdivision for its original purpose, but to its lack of fitness for the
purpose to which there was afterwards an attempt to adapt it, or the low
standard which the city permitted to be applied. Here, we believe, more
stringent public regulation and control would be of great benefit to all
parties, especially to permanent investors in real estate.

Land values are the result in the main of the collective action of the
community. They are affected but not controlled by an individual owner,
even though he hold a vast estate. After all, the city itself must make the
more important decisions, and the contributions to city making on the
part of private indi\-iduals come usually from great numbers. In the future
American cities, as at present in foreign cities, the public authorities will
plan the city. They will locate the streets and railroads, lay out the parks
and playgrounds, develop the waterways, define the boundaries of zones
for industrial, commercial and residential use respectively, and take the
initiative generally in the planning of the city. Then the owner of real
estate and the far-sighted operator will find that these more public methods
of control which are adopted primarily for the good of the community as
a whole tend also to stabilize or increase the value of city land.

One Thing New Under the Sun

THE following was sent out from Philadelphia in the sha])e of news mat-
ter under a recent date line :

"A I''hiladelphian who started to work on the problem in 1906 has
perfected an 'invisible' show window, in which the goods on display are as
clearly visible as though no polished surface of glass interposed between
them and the observer, and one which, incidentally, by the very peculiarity
of its construction, calls aloud for the attention of the passer-by.

"He has broken no law of nature, but he has bent one to his own use
by the simple process of bending the glass.

"The glass, of course, still reflects the images of outside objects thrown
upon it, but it reflects them downward into a darkened 'shadow box' and
not tint to the eye of the observer. It was impossible to rob the polished
surface of the glass of its property of reflection, but by the very laws of re-
flection it was possible to focus them all into a space where they would do
no harm.

"The 'invisible glass' curves downward and inward from a point above
the observer's head. A barrier rising from the pavement to a height of three
and a half feet directly imder the outside line, from which the window above
starts to curve inward, prevents the observer from stepping in underneath
the curve, the only possible way in which he could get his eye in line with
any of the myriad reflections and catch any glare.

The Arcliitcct and I:iii;iiieer 99

'■'J'lie s])ace l)ct\veen the Ijarrier and the lower termination of the curve
constitutes the shadow Ikix which receives the ghire, and, being- jjainted
with a dull black pigment, absor1)s it. For practical considerations the bot-
tom of tiiis barrier is constructed as a series of l)affles and a wide, open
drain with a deep slant to the bottom of the barrier, which is open under-
neath. This is to prevent the accumulation of rubbish, and by it anything
thrown into tlie box will simply be thrown out again onto the i)avement.

"liut, while the principle is a simple one, the inventor discovered that
the finding of the correct angle of curve for every fraction of an inch of the
glass was by no means a simple matter, and he spent years in the task. In
all he has made several hundred models, starting with sections of glass
placed at angles to one another with ground joints, gradually increasing the
number of sections and decreasing the size of each until he arrived at a
base from which to construct his curve.

"One of his last models, l^efore entering this stage of the work, was con-
structed of narrow strips of glass somewhat like a roll top of a desk,
mounted in a brass frame, so arranged with screws that any section could
be tilted to any desired angle. From this, l)y endless adjustment and obser-
vation, he finally arrix'ed at the series of angles which formed the basis of
his curve.

"Theoretically this curve could be plotted on a drawing board. And for
a single source of glare it can, by drawing radiating lines about the selected
point, covering the space between the top and bottom of the window and
calculating the proper angle at which to bisect them so that the angle of
reflection to the shadow box would equal that of incidence. The trouble
with this method was that there might be an infinite number of sources of
glare. The more practical way proved to be the series of very narrow ad-
justable strips of glass, checked up on each adjustment li}- running the e\'e
up and down and sidewise over the entire field.

"But even then the work was not over. A mold would be made accord-
ing to the basic plan and the glass bent over it, but a series of surfaces,
unless infinitely narrow, do not constitute a curve, so that the plotted curve
would not be quite true. There would be points here and there where the
eye would catch a glare, and just one of these flaws would be enough to
necessitate fhe making of an entire new mold and the bending of another
curved sheet.

"He repeated the process many times, each one entailing considerable
expense, until the perfect mold finally was produced.

"One of the most surprising features of his invention was that when
he applied at Washington for a patent, in all that mass of successful and
unsuccessful attempts on file there was none ever submitted which was de-
clared as an attempt to eliminate glare from a polished surface, proving
there is at least one thing new under the sun."

Cause and Effect

Little Boy — .\ penn'urth each of liniment and licjuid cement, please.

Chemist — Are the}' both for the same person, or shall I wrap them up

Little Boy — \\'ell. I dunno. Mu\-ver's broke 'er teapot, so she wants
the cement, but fav\-er wants the liniment. 'E's what muvver broke 'er
teapot on. — Exchange.

100 The ArcliitccI and I'lii^iiiccr

Too Much Water Spoils Good Concrete

M()l\l'". tlian lialf uf our concrete work is Ijeiny dune l)y contractors
who have learned their trade by working for a short period on two
or three jobs under the direction of a capable engineer, and afterwards
applying the hints and suggestions so jMcked up by the rule of thumb.
These contractors invarial^ly put too much water into the concrete mass.

When mixing is done by hand it is usual for the small contractor to
provide a Hat l)oard or floor about ten feet scjuare upon which his batches
are made. The materials are measured l)y wheelbarrow loads, usually
tlirce of crushed rock, two of sand and a bag of cement, and for richer mix-
tures a bag and a half of cement is used, h'our men with shovels turn the
mass over completely a couple of times while all the materials are dry, and
then the water is added by dipping pails from a barrel or through a garden
hose, if such a convenient supply of water is at hand. The laborers then
are supposed to give the wet material three complete turns before it is con-
sidered to be properly mixed. Xow it just happens that as the water
goes into the mass the shoveling process becomes heavier and heavier. It
clings together, sticks to the board, balls up into chunks and only becomes
an easier process as more water is added. When mixing is done by this
process there is no distinct and settled measure for the water that goes into
the mass. The contractor merely wants it as completely mixed as he can
possibly get it, and the men with the shovels want that process to be just
as easy as possible. The dry materials continue to take up water and to
retain it for a period after it has accumulated all of the water that it can
possibly retain in the mechanical and chemical processes that take place
in the hardening of the resultant concrete. As a consecpience of this pro-
cedure from 10 to 15 per cent of excess water is taken up by the concrete
mass, which within a very short time becomes evident. \Vhere the ma-
terial is placed after mixing, the excess water is excluded and rises to the
top of the mass. It is much better that this excess water should never be
put into the concrete at all, for water is practically incompressible and
the squeeze required for its exclusion causes weak veins in the concrete,
which tend to make it spongy. It is probable that this e.xcess of water is
one of the causes, at least, of the crazing of some slabs and floors.

\\'hen a mixer is used the procedure is to charge the drum of the
machine with a given volume of aggregates and cement and then give the
drum from three to five turns so as to mix the dry materials, and then add
a measured amount of water — the water being put into the drum just as
])rom])tlv as can be done, while it is spinning. .\s soon as the water
strikes the mass a very pronounced increase of power is required to drive
the drum, which gets less and less as the mixing process becomes more
complete. Right at this point the time element becomes an important
factor in the mixing, for there is always a tendency to increase the amount
of water to shorten the length of time to secure the mix. With 10 or 1.=;
per cent decrease of the water and twice as nuich time devoted to the
mixing, what seems to be about the same result will be obtained, l)ut a
very great difference in the material and the resultant concrete can easily
be oljserved. These proportions are not intended to be exact, because
they vary with different types of material, but this is mentioned to draw-
attention to the fact that there is no good sul)stitute for the time element
in securing a good mixture, and the aiijjarently simple method of giving
it a little too much water is the very worst thing that could be resorted to
in whoo])ing up the speed of the work.

The Architect umi Eno^inccf 101

For several years there has been a great deal of concrete laid by the
use of towers, having gravity chutes to convey concrete from the mixer
to the various parts of large jobs. The process has seemed to meet with
very surprising success to those who know that when concrete is mixed
so as to be somewhere in the neighborhood of its maximum in the values
for which it is made, that there is a pronounced tendency when chuting
it through a trough for the larger pieces of aggregate to separate from the
mass and roll down ahead of the smaller particles, after this the stiffer
mortar, and last of all wet slush. Observation shows that the wetter the
mass up to a certain point, the faster this separation will occur, and yet
when it comes from the mixer just about right it will not flow with any-
thing like the promptitude necessary to clear the chutes. It is apparent
that if a large proportion of the heavier pieces of the mass did separate
and rattle down the chute ahead of the bulk of the batch, that the forms
would not be filled with the same kind of a mixture that w-as produced at
the mixer, Init a regrading of the concrete mass would occur.

Having seen a great deal of work that has been sent through the
chutes, which to observation appears to be all right, and this being backed
Ijy the assurance of tests made upon such structures, one is tempted to
withdraw all objection to the use of chutes. Yet the principles cited are
always present and consequently it is to be doubted if such a method is
really good practice, and will always give the good results which the pres-
ent wide adoption of the use of chutes for placing concrete seems to

It is certain that too much care or too much attention can never be
expended upon securing the perfect mixture of the materials that go to
make up the concrete mass, nor for getting them uniformly and properly
placed. These are the main points of good concrete work. — Rock Products.

* *

The Artistic Temperament

A writer in The Hospital. London, quoted in The Literary Digest, says
that it is a mistake to suppose that the artist necessarily possesses the
artistic temperament. If the artistic temperament be as defined by this
writer, it. is e\ident that no artist would be worthy of respect if he pos-
sessed it.

He says that the artistic temperament is characterized l)y excesses in
adult life, by lack of discipline and self-restraint, l)y selfishness, by in-
capacity for steady industry, by unwillingness to undertake any task that
is not pleasant and congenial, by inefficiency, procrastination, by commenc-
ing things that are never finished. In short, by imperfection in every
detail of human character.

Those who are so unfortunate tc) possess this temperament he declares
are in business affairs unthrifty and extravagant. "They s])end dispropor-
tionately on present indulgence, on personal adornment and p'sasure. and
have little regard to future wants, and none whatever for the welfare
of others, even of those nearest to them. They borrow w'ithout any inten-
tion to repay ; they cadge without shame, and care not of how much they

Online LibraryThomas Babington Macaulay MacaulayThe Architect & engineer of California and the Pacific Coast (Volume v.46-47 (July-Dec. 1916)) → online text (page 13 of 52)