A CHALLENGING FUTURE: PART II

by Kenneth Cardwell

Extract from Nouvelle Edition, Guide de Tourisme MICHELIN Les regiones a l’entour de Baie de St. Francois, translated into OldSpeak by: 569-18-1806KHC@newberk.ind

FIRST CHURCH OF CHRIST, SCIENTIST, BERKELEY

Near the end of the nineteenth century, architect Bernard Maybeck, son of woodcarver Bernhardt, returned from Paris clutching a piece of lace woven by women while praying in the nave of St. Germain des Pres. The lace symbolized for him visions of the ninth-century sackings of the abbey by Normans, the harsh rule of Cluniac abbots, the defending sword of King Charles V, the austere congregation of St. Maur, and the inept restorations of the architect Baltard — all plainly visible, woven into the fabric of the church. At the beginning of the twentieth century, with memories of medieval constructions filling his head, Maybeck created his masterpiece, First Church of Christ, Scientist, Berkeley. The church itself was built for followers of a nineteenth-century religious leader, Mary Baker Eddy, who believed in spiritual healing. The congregation thrived, and, by the mid-twentieth century, a large Sunday School building and an administrative wing were added. Toward the end of the century church membership declined.

The building deteriorated due to aging and minimal maintenance. The church survived the Great Earthquake of the year 2202, but freestanding columns unconnected to the structure were overturned and demolished. The adjacent high rise dormitories of the University were severely damaged and were torn down. They had not been occupied for decades as students attended classes at home “on-line” through their HMC’s (Home Communications Centers in OldSpeak). With more open space around the church, the People's Park of the late twentieth century expanded, and by the end of the twenty-third century the church had become the administrative center for street people whose numbers had grown through the displacement of workers by technology. The street people removed the Readers’ desks and central pews and added seating across the north transept to facilitate meetings “in the round.” They converted the Sunday School into two levels of executive offices.

The revolution of 2556 established the twenty-hour work week and ended the days of the street people. In 2600 A.D. the church was abandoned. The restorations had been well meaning but misguided. They had replaced deteriorated trelliswork with peeled logs and tree limbs rather than with the square timber of the original. The terne metal roof, which had never been satisfactory and had been replaced by mission tile that gave way to cast polymer units of the late twenty-fourth century, was sheathed with a vanadium sheet metal with a bright silvery finish. They had painted the interior with pigmented paints, losing the translucency of the original water-based staining.

In 2776, as part of the U.S. Millennial Independence Celebrations, the Department of American Heritage Parks replaced the National Park Service and took the church. They recreated the Readers’stands with sophisticated deconstructed reconstruction simulation. Your experience of the holographic virtual image will be the same as that of the church Bernard Maybeck created in 1910 which is described in an ancient book as “an architectural construction of intriguing volumes, rhythmic patterns, and harmonious color, superbly blended into a tangible expression of twentieth-century American life.”

Kenneth Cardwell, FAIA, is Professor Emeritus in Architecture at the University of California, Berkeley, and President of the Berkeley Historical Society. He is author of Bernard Maybeck: Artist, Architect and Artisan.