I recently got a call from a fine art consulting agency that was looking for some architectural photography for a project that they were fulfilling for a client. I have to admit that I was somewhat setback that this company considered me an authority in terms of historical architectural photography in and around my hometown. Certainly not an academic in the traditional sense of what an architectural historian might look or sound like, setting all the art history jargon aside, I can honestly summarize why I shoot by simply saying that I get a kick out of making pretty pictures of the world around me. Being blessed with living in area rich in history and with a few somewhat significant contributions still standing in and around the downtown area, I thought it very prevalent to pull an old image out of the files and write a couple of thoughts about an old building that I have visited throughout the years.
The First Church of Christ Scientist built in 1905 and designed by Willis Polk has served as a literal pillar of civic and religious pride in the downtown area of San Jose. I often like to think of the building as the little mini Greek building, because of its small scale in comparison to the Iconic columns and large portico. The First Church building is a modern sample of the larger than life edifices that the Greeks were known to create. They were also known for playing on the human perspective of how we judge the size and alignment of lines, when standing near the base or in front of the building, you can’t help but follow the columns from the base all the way up to where the columns meet the frieze, ending at the portico that seems to be a huge massive triangle or pyramid that floats in the sky. I warn you, if you hold this position with your head long enough you might risk injury. All jokes aside, the Greeks knew how to convey the idea that their buildings were made for or by a higher order, I’m sure there are numerous studied arguments or theories why the Greeks chose to build there buildings in the manner in which they did, one thing is certain though, vanity or outward appearances was definitely one of the key motivators.
First Church of Christ has been abandoned for sometime now. Despite being past it’s glory, the building is owned by Barry Swenson Builder and has been included as part of a master plan to be restored and flaked by 2 huge high rises on either end in the not so distant future. It’s not certain when this project will ever materialize but, I am certain that the current downturn in downturn in the real estate market has an influential decision on postponing the such ambitious endeavors, perhaps until a time when the Greeks get their house in order.