Seventeenth Church of Christ, Scientist
Chicago, Illinois
Architect:Harry Weese Associates
Client/Owner:Seventeenth Church of Christ, Scientist
General Contractor: Sumner Sollitt Construction Co.
Consulting Engineer: Orlando Cabanban

Seventeenth Church of Christ, Scientist

Seventeenth Church of Christ, Scientist
Seventeenth Church of Christ, Scientist

The Seventeenth Church of Christ, Scientist, is a modern solution to a traditional building type. Its design was influenced by the urban site, a modern program of use and a supportive and responsive client.

The client has a tradition of assembly in spaces that are unorthodox in design. The only requirement was that the needs of the congregation are met. This allowed Harry Weese to work without conventional barriers, letting the site and progam dictate the functions and their separation within. To further enforce the design, the concrete structure is articulated along the exterior, guiding the eye from street level to the lantern above. These forms contrast with the rectilinear, tall buildings surrounding the church. Despite its modernity, the contrast in scale between the Church and its surroundings is as effective as a traditional tall church in a neighborhood. Instead of dominating the area around it, the church welcomes members through its human scale. The concealed garden and fountains at the entry further contrast the pavement and invite visitors.

The interior functions benefit from the efficient yet accommodating shapes of the exterior. The auditorium brings the congregation together, placing the furthest seat only 54 feet from the reader's desk. This circular design, together with the tent-like ceiling, makes for superior acoustics. The auxiliary spaces, which are more public, include the lobby, offices and a Sunday school. The congested urban site made an underground parking garage a necessity.

The craftsmanship of the building is exceptional. Traditional materials of plaster, glass and travertine were used, but worked around the unusual modern forms. Building Contruction magazine in 1969 stated, "the church is a classic example of impeccable marble craftsmanship." The condition of the building today is testament to the quality of that craftsmanship.

The Seventeenth Church of Christ, Scientist remains a vital landmark in the Chicago Loop today, as well as an important addition to contemporary church design.

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