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Christian Science Church, Rochester, NY

August 15, 2017

If someone had asked me what architect in Rochester, NY might have designed a Christian Science church, I’d have immediately nominated Claude Fayette Bragdon. Bragdon [1866-1946] is known for his work in the Arts & Crafts spirit but also for his esoteric theories on the abstract geometries as guiding principles for modern architecture. His 1907 design for the Unitarian church in Rochester is nearly as well known as Louis I. Kahn’s design for the same congregation completed in 1962. So imagine my surprise to learn about the for of a spectacular Christian Science church by architects Gordon, Madden and Kaelber. They were associates on this project, but later formed a full partnership.

First Church of Christ, Scientist was featured in the March 1917 issue of The Architectural Record. Its dominant use of curvilinear and radial geometries is very Bragdon-like and yet not. I especially like this example for four reasons: 1) the pure geometric abstractions of the plan (despite potential acoustic issues in a cylindrical auditorium); 2) the iconic F-1 configuration in my typology; 3) that examples can be found outside mainstream Protestantism; and 4) that a major contribution to the database can come from a source other than postcards.

The building has recently become the Lyric Theater.

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