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 largest cathedrals. To contextualize the many existing and proposed buildings that would comprise the Christian Science Center’s campus, a 25-acre master plan was created by architect Arnaldo Cossutta of I.M. Pei & Associates, in close collaboration with the Boston Redevelopment Authority. Cossutta’s master plan 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 classic 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. Appearing to walk on water, visitors glide along the tree-lined reflecting pool while motorists move through the large parking garage below. Landscape architect Peter Roland of Sasaki, Dawson & DeMay carefully compiled the rotating plant palette, using raised planters to feature seasonal displays of color. Innovative now, prescient then, the continuous soil trenches beneath the linden bosque have granted large, healthy shade trees to contemporary visitors.