Landmarks, not Landfill: I.M. Pei Church in Washington Under Threat


OK, brutalist concrete buildings are not the current rage, but there is a lot of embodied energy in that concrete, and enough of it that the building could last forever. It is not one of Pei's best; the architectural critic at the time called it "rude and disorderly." Most articles on it don't even mention his name. The Historic Preservation Office wants to save it, noting "It is always with reluctance, and fairly rarely, that we recommend a designation over an owner's objection" and call it "one of the best examples of Brutalism in the Washington area," a prime example of "the use of exposed, unadorned, roughly cast concrete to construct buildings of 'stark forms and raw surfaces."

But the Christian Scientist owners want to blow it away and build a smaller 400 seat sanctuary and let a developer take the rest.


All over north America, church membership is declining and yet often the buildings are preserved and modified for other uses, usually condominiums. It's Washington; instead of calling it a "concrete fortress that looks like a top-secret government installation," why not just turn it into a top-secret government installation? It is better than grinding up the work of a great architect and a zillion tons of embodied energy for paving.

Clean it up, find a good use for it, give the Christian Scientists a new home in a portion of it and save it for future generations. ::Washington Post

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