Third Church of Christ, Scientist, and Christian Science Monitor Building

The modernist church, office building, and plaza are notable as works of the office of I.M. Pei and Partners and principal designer Araldo Cossutta.

Built between 1968 and 1971, the modernist church, office building, and plaza at this site were designed primarily by principal architect Araldo Cossutta. A European-trained protégé of the famous Swiss architect LeCorbusier, Cossutta was a visionary architect interested in exploring the possibilities of architectural concrete as an expressive and technologically innovative medium.

This complex was among the last in I.M. Pei and Partners' progression of experimental concrete structures in Denver, Chicago, New York, Philadelphia, Boston, and Washington, and was directly inspired by Frank Lloyd Wright’s concrete Unity Temple of 1905-06. As in these earlier structures, the Christian Science buildings employ concrete as an integral material that unifies structure with both interior and exterior finish. The church is bold and uncompromising in its geometric forms, set off by the brick plaza and broad ribbons of glass on the office facade. Also notable are the effects of natural light in the elegant, unobstructed interior spaces separated from outside distractions.

The completion of the Third Church of Christ, Scientist edifice and the Christian Science Monitor Building in 1971 was the culmination of a two-decade effort on the part of a local Christian Science congregation to find a replacement for its former church at 13th and L Streets, NW. Many years were occupied by design and fundraising for construction. From a perspective appreciative of the development of architecture in Washington, and particularly of the “recent past,” the timing was fortuitous, because the result was one of the best examples of Brutalism in the Washington area and one of the most important Modernist churches.

DC Inventory: December 6, 2007

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1601 I Street, NW and 910 16th Street, NW