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Strange Bedfellows


Based on budget, lot size and orientation, S. S. Beman produced a wonderfully innovative series of church designs for Christian Science. The church at Davenport, Iowa, though wider than it is deep, at least represents the architect’s attitude toward style: he preferred simple Neo-Classical buildings that could be erected in masonry or wood, with a uniform covering of stucco in greys, pinks, robin’s-egg blue, and other pastel after-dinner-mint shades. Perhaps his work for this new denomination called for a kit or architectural parts; for an approach that was wholesale, rather than retail. I can dig it.


Bernard Maybeck, on another hand, focussed extraordinarily on the craft of architecture, the relationship between design and material; on how the work comes from the working. His Christian Science church at Berkeley, California is a monument to the Arts & Crafts and, simultaneously, a paean to economies that can derive from ordinary industrial building materials. Make certain your next visit to the Bay Area includes a stop at 2619 Dwight Way.


If the melding of these two approaches to design weren’t difficult enough, I had also become intrigued by the Etruscans, the overshadowed source of ancient Roman architecture. Rome can sometimes be treated unjustly as merely derivative of Greek architectural style. Though no Etruscan temples have survived intact, however, we can appreciate them from surviving tomb paintings, medals and models. Here was an easy going Tuscan style in decided contrast to the exquisite finicky refinements of Greek Doric.


I could imagine an Agincourt church design drawn from these disparate sources.

1 Comment

  1. […] have been tempered by Maybeck—through the agency of someone who had seen the Berkeley church. I’ve written about this much earlier, but it seems worth revisiting in light of The Franklin apartments cattywampus across […]

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