Within the tight urban grid of Boston’s Back Bay neighborhood, the world headquarters of the First Church of Christ, Scientist was completed in 1971, featuring an enormous central open space not unlike the massive plazas and piazzas adjacent to Europe’s cathedrals. To contextualize the many existing and proposed buildings that would comprise the 25-acre Christian Science Center campus, architect Arnaldo Cossutta of I.M. Pei & Associates, in close collaboration with the Boston Redevelopment Authority, created a master plan. Cossutta’s report included the development of neighboring properties to encourage private investment and improve access between the campus and the surrounding community.
In the mid-1960s Cossutta engaged the landscape architecture firm Sasaki, Dawson & DeMay to provide a classical setting for the Christian Science Center, including a great plaza with circular spray fountain 80 feet in diameter, an arching grove of nearly 200 linden trees, and a 700-foot long rectangular reflecting pool. Visitors appear to walk on water as they move along the tree-lined pool while motorists proceed unseen through the parking garage below. Landscape architect Peter Rolland of Sasaki, Dawson & DeMay carefully compiled the rotating plant palette, using raised planters to feature seasonal displays of color. Prescient then, innovative now, the continuous soil trenches beneath the linden bosque has supported the healthy maturation of large shade trees. In more recent years Reed Hilderbrand and IBI Placemaking have led projects to improve and restore the plaza. In 2011 Christian Science Plaza became the first Modernist landscape in Boston to be locally designated as a landmark.