Page:Old Towns and New Needs.djvu/50

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OLD TOWNS AND NEW NEEDS.

useless aspiration, and that its systems, if it has any, are so uncertain of general application as to be nugatory? Not so. For, to take an analogy from another craft, the system of man patching, which we call medicine, is justified by the dire necessity which says man must be healed or he dies. Similarly the study of ideal perfection in towns so far from being merely visionary, or positively mischievous is actually needful. For crises occur in the life of towns when action must be taken, decisive and costly action. At such times the town's adviser, though he knows that his scheme of perfection may become imperfection to his grandsons, must act upon that scheme, for it is his best, and there is at least a chance that it may have in it the elements of permanent beauty and permanent worth. Put in another way it may be said that the town planner is playing a game of which the rules may in three or four generations be completely changed—but in order to make a move in that game at all, and move he must, he should at least know the rules as they are in his day. Again a city must not on account of its slow growth and many designers be denied that title to artistic worth which we allow to a cathedral that has taken four centuries in building.

One of the main duties of the town planner in an old city is to make sure that no disrespect is done to anything which is old and beautiful or historic. And this avoidance of disrespect means, not merely preservation, but such an arrangement of the new surroundings as will insure that these treasures of the past may look their best and may seem at home in their surroundings.