Brutalism in the City: Third Church of Christ, Scientist

Washington DC

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Continuing our series on modern architecture in DC, we turn to another extremely controversial building- the Third Church of Christ, Scientist on 16th and I Streets NW. Designed by Araldo Cossutta, who worked with I.M. Pei's firm, the church is a stunning example of Brutalism in the heart of the city...

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This building has never been a popular addition to the Washington landscape, and the congregation of the church has always been among its fiercest critics. Built in 1971, the church and adjacent reading room were supposed to provide the Christian Scientists with a distinctive presence in the nation’s capital, but the building’s unfortunate resemblance to a windowless concrete bunker has never really attracted passersby; we have to confess that in our 30+ years in the city, we never even realized it was a church!

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Photo courtesy of The Recent Past Preservation Network

Stuck with expensive maintenance fees for an overly large building, the congregation of 50 has long sought to tear down the existing church to build a structure that would better meet its current and future needs. In a controversial decision in December 2007, the Historic Preservation Review Board declared the complex an historic landmark, eliminating for now any prospect of demolition or even renovation. The church members may still appeal the decision, but for now it seems this Brutalist church just blocks from the White House is here to stay.

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