By Beth Treffeisen
Sticking out behind a bus stop on Massachusetts Avenue. is an historic 1934 gateway that will now remain after initial renovation plans to remove it. The gateway served as the original entranceway into the Publishing House of the First Church of Christ, Scientist.
At a Boston Landmarks commission (BLC) meeting on Tuesday, Sept. 26, the Commission voted to accept the new designs as presented that will keep the gateway, but continue to enclose the area with a glass-paneled wall.
“We are keeping the arch in the design,” said Christopher Bridle the landscape architect representing the First Church of Christ, Scientist. “We went through a great process with [BLC], and you guys had a great solution. Now, the glass wall extends the entire perimeter and keeps access to the plaza.”
The remaining granite pieces from the 14-foot-high wall that once closed in the garden behind it will be re-connected through transparent glass panels. Major parts of the wall were taken down in February 2001, as part of the Mary Baker Eddy Library renovation to make the library accessible and welcoming to the public.
The new design removes three more slivers of the remaining granite wall and replaces it with glass panels. The archway will have an opening glass door that will be open when the public is welcomed in. If there is an event or at night, it can be can be closed.
“This is a huge step forward,” said Commissioner David Berarducci.
In May, the BLC denied without prejudice the original design to remove the archway and replace it with a glass wall. The landscape architect representing First Church of Christ, Scientist, stated that the gateway did not align with the Mary Baker Eddy Library entrance, causing a dissonance between the two.
After listening to the advice of the BLC, Bridle went back to the drawing board to see how to better incorporate a wall.
The space now will feature a small water feature, a new entrance with three pivot doors that lead out Christian Science Plaza, and lighting to showcase architectural features within the design.
Although the new entrance way will have three pivot doors that intend to remain open to make the plaza welcoming to the community, Commissioner Brad Walker said it might still act as a fence.
“Don’t diminish how much of a barrier that will feel like even if they are left open,” said Walker. “It creates a reaction similar to airport security. Just keep in mind how that will feel to people.”
The julep trees that currently line the Massachusetts Ave., plaza will be removed and replaced with new trees that will have a shorter height. Brindle said that the current trees are blocking views of the façade of the Publishing House and the Christian Science Church behind it.
Commissioner Richard Yeager asked if there was any chance that the original gate that once closed off the gateway would be put back up. Brindle said no because the First Church, Scientist board would prefer it to be transparent and they want to keep it open.
Later on in the hearing, The First Church of Christ, Scientist also gained approval of removing four Linden trees from the Publish House entrance. Four new trees will be installed but will be symmetrical and block less of the view of the building.
This will be the last approval needed to finish the plaza restoration and repair project of The Christian Science Plaza.