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First Church of Christ, Scientist Receives 2024 Paul & Niki Tsongas Award


Interior photo of the church
First Church of Christ, Scientist

Preservation Mass is pleased to announce that the First Church of Christ, Scientist - The Mother Church Original Edifice and Extension Edifice is the recipient of the 2024 Paul & Niki Tsongas Award.


The Mother Church sits at the center of the Christian Science Center Plaza, 13.5-acres that is the largest privately owned, publicly accessible open space in the City of Boston. This renowned building comprises two structures constructed at different times: the Romanesque Revival The Mother Church Original (TMCO) designed by Franklin Welch, completed in 1894; and the larger Neoclassical domed edifice, The Mother Church Extension (TMCX) designed by Charles Brigham & Charles Covery of Boston and Solon Beman of Chicago, completed in 1906. Each building represents different architectural styles and materials and were the product of rapid growth in the Christian Science faith. The Church buildings are Landmarked by the Boston Landmarks Commission (BLC), and all preservation work required careful consideration to receive BLC approval.


The Church selected Simpson Gumpertz & Heger (SGH) as the building envelope and structural engineer for the restoration of the building exterior, while Finegold Alexander Architects served as the architect for the building interiors, including electrical upgrades, life safety systems, accessibility modifications, new restrooms and the redesign of ancillary spaces, all while preserving and restoring the Church’s original historic finishes. Shawmut Design and Construction served as the construction manager, tasked with implementing the preservation work, restoring the building to its original vision while leaving behind no trace of the oftentimes invasive work that was completed.


The recently completed preservation of The First Church of Christ, Scientist historic church edifices spanned eight years, with a completion date of 2024. The project is a first-rate example of groundbreaking preservation work, due to the impressive scale of the domed structure; the difficult logistics required to remediate the ornate building fabric; the innovative engineering solutions used to rebuild the original Guastavino and terra cotta tile semi-domes and replace the terra cotta and steel framed cupola; and the significance that this iconic building has both for the City of Boston and beyond. In this model of preservation practice, leadership and teamwork was displayed in the coordinated efforts of the client, engineers, architects and consultant groups required to tackle this massive project. The preservation and restoration work on the Church edifices—which took place before, during and after the Covid-19 pandemic—created and enhanced opportunities for community not just for the Christian Science congregation, whose worship was relatively uninterrupted by the project—but also for the neighborhood residents, Boston citizens and visitors to the region. The newly watertight building embodies the ideals and dedication championed by the Paul & Niki Tsongas Award, with the restored stonework and terracotta detailing at its exterior; and with the code compliant electrical and life safety systems, the preserved finishes and the new accessible reading platform and elevator at its interior. This eight-year, multi-phased restoration project has added 100+ years to the building’s life and incorporated innovative solutions to preserve its original appearance.


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