A TWENTIETH CENTURY CITY.
J. T. Noble Anderson
Proceedings at the Congress of Engineers, Architects, Surveyors and Others Interested in the Building of the Federal Capital, Held in Melbourne, in May, 1901. (Melbourne: J.C. Stephens, Printer, 1901):14-17Anderson was among the participants at a conference of representatives of the land-based professions held in Melbourne in 1901. They met to discuss a provision of the constitution that had just gone into effect with the creation of a new federated government uniting the several states of Australia. The constitution gave Parliament responsibility for fixing the location of the seat of government, specifying that it was to be in the State of New South Wales but at least 100 miles from Sydney. Engineers, architects, and surveyors, although often rivals for professional commissions, came together to consider how the new city should be planned. Anderson was a member of the Victorian Institute of Engineers and a member of the Executive Committee that organized the conference. His concentration on "avoidance of dirt, dust, and smoke" and "the removal of the sewerage and drainage of the city" apparently reflect a background in municipal engineering.The question of founding a new city of such importance as the Federal Capital calls for the exercise of the greatest experience and foresight, and is altogether too ambitious and extensive a subject to admit of adequate treatment in the few short minutes available. However, a brief consideration of the conditions required to render a great city not only healthy and convenient for the population, but also containing the beauty and dignity which its circumstances will demand, and which, for the moral and intellectual welfare of its population, it is desirable that it should have, is necessary, lest we forget the most important feature of the subject.
The artistic perceptions of the race determine of what character the beauty of the city should be, and if these are disregarded, no matter how suitable the buildings be, or how lavish the expenditure and exquisite the architecture, the result must be disappointing and incapable of satisfying the sentiment and aesthetic cravings of the population. These artistic perceptions are undoubtedly the result as much of atavistic instincts, as of conservative sentiment, and it is due to this that architecture has grown from century to century as continuously and naturally in its evolution as the human race itself. In the architecture (the term architecture is here used in its widest sense) of the city, therefore, the two artistic essentials are the strong citadel, the presence of which gives that sense of rest and security which is so essential to the happiness and the health of the population, and the emporium, which gives that sense of civic importance and self-respect which is essential to the proper health of the commercial spirit.
In most of our nineteenth century cities, more especially those in Australia, it is the second element alone which has been properly developed.
To secure the first element it is almost essential that there should be in the precincts of the city some rocky or mountainous eminence. In these hills (of which, using the Hebrew simile, we may say, "from whence cometh our salvation ") are naturally placed the cathedrals and temples of Justice, the statutes, monuments, and record offices, and in the modern town, following the precedent of the later development of the Roman Empire, we may place also our public granaries, our service reservoirs for water supply, our fuel stores, and possibly stored electricity, liquid air, and whatever else can be fitly stored, so as to regulate those fluctuations in the current prices which have always proved so detrimental to the interests of the public at large, and the monopoly of whose storage by the few has been the chief cause of the growth of a wealthy idle class In the community. At the foot of this citadel the emporium should lie, on as level land as can be obtained; here the streets should be broad and straight, broken up with numerous open spaces which would be utilised for the growth of flowers, and in the larger squares, where there would be fountains and patches of grass for the disporting of the old people and children. Outside this emporium, and within easy access of the citadel would lie the larger recreation reserves of the public parks. The great bulk of the population would, of course, reside in the emporium only the official class, and those having business in or around the citadel, being provided with quarters in that select and guarded ward.
Whereas, in the emporium, a wide discrimination would be given to individual taste in the selection of sites and styles for building warehouses and dwelling houses; official regard being had mainly to such questions as the avoidance of shutting up the poorer quarters in back slums, and the provision for ample daylight in all dwellings and the means of safety in all emergencies. In the citadel, on the other hand, the buildings would be erected by the State, and should be in accordance with one artistic and predetermined "motif."
One of the most important points to be observed in the Twentieth Century City will be the avoidance of dirt, dust, and smoke:-
The avoidance of dirt. It is very probable that beasts of burden will be absolutely prohibited at an early stage in the history of the city. A strict limit will also be placed on the number and locations which will be permitted for domestic animals and birds.
The avoidance of dust, will, no doubt, be accomplished to a considerable extent by extensive shrub and grass planting, and a very abundant use of water, not only for fountains, but also as is done in such cities as Rotterdam and the Hague, by the frequent hosing and cleaning of every portion of the dwelling house, external and internal, as well as the street.
The avoidance of smoke is, probably, a more difficult problem than either of these. It is not every city that is so well situated as New York, where practically smokeless coal is the rule, but a great deal can be done to mitigate this smoke trouble in large cities, by having an immense power station for the generation of electric power, compressed air, and high pressure water, and also hot water, some miles distant from the emporium. I would suggest several novel features in connection with this large station, but the time available prohibits any details. One feature, however, which will be a direct outcome from the present system of distributing hot water, I venture to forecast, and that is, instead of sending water at a moderately low temperature from the exhaust steam of the engines for heating purposes in the house and manufactories, as is done in New York and some other large cities, that in the future, water for heat distribution will be intensely hot and at a pressure equal to that reached in the strongest water-tube boilers. It wants but little investigation of the circumstances to see that by the adoption of such a means of distributing heat and by the concentration of all the heat generation in a quarter external to the city, the smoke nuisance can practically be abolished. It is needless to call attention to the many advantages of a smokeless city, the only class of the community who might have reasons to complain of such a condition of affairs would be the laundresses.
There remains but one other evil, and that probably the greatest, to be dealt with, viz:-
The removal of the sewerage and drainage of the city. For many reasons it will be found advantageous to have the site for treating, the sewerage in close proximity to the power generating station. Here too, will be found the chemical and dye works, but, from due consideration of public health and happiness the existing state of affairs, whereby the operatives reside as close as possible to these works, should be abandoned and the operatives conveyed, as is done at two of the suburbs in Melbourne, by the State of Victoria, free of charge on the State railways to their dwellings.
So much for removing the refuse from the city, but there is yet one class, very expensive and difficult to deal with, which we have not yet mentioned, namely, the human refuse, the criminal and the insane, and the proper housing of these will be a matter largely of locality, but for purposes of humanity they should be kept as far as possible from the sight of the general citizens, though easily accessible to their friends
With reference to hospitals, accident and maternity hospitals would probably be in the citadel, as being the healthiest resort. Whether the fever and infectious diseases would be placed there or not, will depend much upon the progress of medical science.
There are many details which might be forecast, but one main object of this paper is to give a broad idea to the builders of the new city, of what is likely to be demanded, that they may survey and arrange their ground to meet future contingencies, and as far as is possible, avoid doing work which will have to be undone, or may hamper the growth of the community. It may not be out of place, however, to mention one feature which will probably arise when the community demands the abolition of beasts of burden from the city, that is to say, the universal conveyance, free of charge, on tramways and moving platforms, of the population and all its burdens. The population being mainly provided for during the hours of 6 a.m. till midnight, and the distribution of goods in the remaining six hours, keeping the tractive engines continually employed.
The congestion of traffic in the streets will probably be avoided by placing above the footpaths, instead of the more usual verandahs, continuous balconies, and the bridging of the street crossings by foot bridges, in continuation of these balconies.
If the moving platform is adopted, it will naturally take its place on the same level as this balcony.
The balcony itself has a double advantage, it not only enables the streets to be made narrower than otherwise would be possible, but it gives practically a double length of frontage to the buildings by making both the ground and first floors accessible to the passers by. Lifts and ramps would of course give access from the main street to the balcony footway. The balcony footway can obviously be wider than the road level footway.
Another matter of considerable importance, is the best arrangements for water supply, and in a city built in one continuous operation, there is no reason why the main water supply pipes should not he placed directly in the dwellings and at a high level. A convenient place for them would be along the street frontage, some 8 or 9 feet above the level of the balcony, or else immediately below it. Of course in making this suggestion, the Australian climate is considered, such a proposition being impossible where long periods of severe frost are experienced. It is almost an axiom that even in spite of the removal of the dust and dirt from the city, the service reservoirs should be entirely covered in; and although it is very probable that the main from the storage reservoirs will traverse the emporium, and that the water will be filtered before entering that main, it is yet desirable that the service of the city should be entirely drawn from the service reservoirs, and to avoid unforeseen accidents, or the possibility of an armed seige[sic], it is desirable that the service reservoirs should be built in accordance with the great Brunel's dictum, viz:--to contain at least three weeks supply, at the maximum rate of consumption.
Sufficient is here outlined to show that a city free from dirt, dust, noxious fumes, and the fear of fire and pestilence, is not merely a dream, and that many of the engineering difficulties, only require bold and original handling to vanish.
Assuredly, engineers and men of science should not shrink from their duty of proving to the public, that at least as high a standard of civilization and comfort as is here somewhat broadly and vaguely indicated, is attainable And, further, if a suitable site be chosen, and the engineers be given scope to properly solve the problems all the lavish use of power and water for the health and convenience of man contemplated, will be easily procured without inflicting even so heavy a financial strain upon the population as is at present imposed in most large cities.
With so wide a view of the end to be achieved, the selection of a suitable site will indeed prove difficult. It is to be hoped that some site like that of Athens or Edinburgh may be found for the federal city, and if so, since she will be populated by a race in nowise inferior to any of her predecessors, and her atmosphere and climate will be pure and moderate, the result can hardly fail to be that her children will take their lead in nobleness of thought and beauty of artistic expression-, as surely as Athenians did for centuries, and as the sons of Edinburgh continue to lead.
Selected, scanned, edited, provided with headnotes, and formatted as a web document by John W. Reps, Professor Emeritus, Department of City and Regional Planning, West Sibley Hall, Cornell University, Ithaca, New York 14853, USA. Tel: (607) 255-5391, Fax: (607) 255-6681, E-mail: email@example.com To Top of Page To Homepage