By JOHN BRISBEN WALKER.
ONE cannot enter the gates of the Pan-American Exposition at Buffalo-that wonder of color and form which rises before the visitor-without mentally reverting to the City of White Palaces of 1893, only eight years ago, with its throngs of amazed and delighted people. Even while the mind is filled with delight and astonishment, there comes a subconscious picture of the neglected "Pinta" which sailed so boldly across the Atlantic, and now lies abandoned in a marsh from which rise the charred ends of many piles-the only remaining vestiges of that famous White City. What a shame if these marvelous creations at Buffalo are to meet a similar fate! "What a pity," the visitor reflects, "that another two or three millions could not have been added to the funds at the disposal of the commission, and the walls stand in substantial brick and mortar instead of wood and staff!" It might have required that the Exposition should have been located a few miles farther out on the prairie. Then at its close the aggregation of palaces might have been converted into a model city; the Palace of Liberal Arts become a great factory; the Temple of Music stand as the theater hall; the Stadium remain the great amphitheater that it is, to which Buffalo could flock in years to come for its amusement. Games would, doubtless, be born worthy of the dignity of their surroundings. The buildings constructed by the states of North and South America would become private houses set in the most beautiful of parks. Probably three-fourths of the cost of the Exposition has been in the work on its designing, its parks, its waterways, and the workmanship of its architecture and monuments. Only the materials of the exterior are temporary. Another million or at the most, two millions expended would have left every wall in the most durable of materials. What a pity then, what a waste that this small additional sum should not have left the work of great artists in lasting form!
For this is the lesson of the fair-that it illustrates what men working in harmonious effort may accomplish for the delight of all. Who believes that the people of the second half of our new century will be content to live in those abominations of desolation which we call our great cities-brick and mortar piled higgledy-piggledy, glaringly vulgar, stupidly offensive, insolently trespassing on the right to sunshine and fresh air, conglomerate result of a competitive individualism which takes no regard for the rights of one's neighbor?
Wandering in these streets of varied forms, the mind is entranced by the eternally changing color always in marvelous harmony. Down the great central court to the left, by the fountains on the Esplanade, in the maze of the Horticultural and the Graphic Arts Buildings, then under the graceful pergolas to the magnificent erections on the Bridge of Triumph, the colors change and change until the whole prismatic spectrum seems to have been exhausted twenty times over-yet never a repetition, only restful harmony.
How was this marvel of construction brought about? Why three miles away are a thousand ungraceful shapes piled garishly together, and here this dream of perfection? The answer comes-it is but the difference in systems. One represents human effort disastrously expended under individual guidance in the competitive system which takes no thought of neighbor. The other represents organization intended for the best enjoyment of all. One stands as the remnant of a barbarism handed down through the centuries. The other stands for the aspiration of the human mind under the unfolding intelligence of an advancing civilization. In the light of this new city the old seems almost as much of an anachronism as the walled city of the Middle Ages with its turrets and donjon and drawbridge and portcullis.
How was this present marvel constructed? Very simply. The men of high intelligence whose liberality is responsible for this exhibit came together and said: "Let us seek out the great artists in architecture, in sculpture, in landscape, and bring them here to Buffalo. Then we will ask them to work out in unison a scheme, every part of which shall be in perfect harmony with every other part; shape, environment, distance, color, shall all unite in one great harmony."
The Chinese philosophers have derived from their four thousand years of study one idea of heaven, and their word for it is HARMONY. Through all their highest philosophical ideals runs this one word-harmony. With their limited economic conditions they have never been able to express this conception in material form. It has been left for this richest of peoples twice to make expression of it in form and color. This, then, may be taken as the great central idea of the Pan-American Exposition-a Prophecy of what the city of the future must be-a beautiful location arranged, first, with reference to its landscape; second, with reference to its form and perfection, and, next, with reference to satisfying the eye in its blending colors-all carefully planned and worked out with reference to the uses to which it is to be put.
When commerce ceases to be war, when the world ceases to educate its best brains for the destruction which is meant by competition, when human talent shall be converted to its highest sphere of usefulness, then we shall have the sites of cities selected by commissions having the highest good of the proposed community at heart, instead of by cornerers and peddlers of real estate.
Sanitary advantage will be
considered in a scientific way, and homes and factories will be outlined
with reference to the highest advantage of the entire community. Harmony
throughout all will be sought, instead of the freaks of individuality.