Christian Science Center in Boston

The trees in suspended pavement at the Christian Science Center form a calm and cooling canopy. Flickr credit: walkn

I didn’t realize it when I’ve written about the suspended pavement system at Boston’s Christian Science Center in the past, but in 2011 this plaza was designated with Landmark status by the Boston Landmark Commission.

Gary Hilderbrand, FASLA, wrote about this site in the January issue of Landscape Architecture Magazine. Intermixed with his thoughts and comments on some proposed alterations to the plaza, he had this to say about the Center’s gorgeous linden trees:

The plaza is elegantly framed by a bosque of 200 linden trees, arranged in a quincunx pattern that derives from French medieval and baroque fruit tree plantations. For me, these trees remain the single greatest geometric planted form in Boston — unparalleled in our city and uncommon in North America. Because of the church’s enormous and continuous commitment to stewardship, and thanks to the provision in the original Sasaki project of intelligent technical details to provide horticultural support for the trees, not a single linden has been lost in the 40 years since they were installed. The trees and their formidable companion, the reflecting pool, rise to the status of treasured artifacts of culture — elements of [Aldo] Rossi’s collective memory, and together the kind of landmark that the planner Kevin Lynch defined as essential to urban coherence.

Christian Science Plaza_izzointer

Flickr credit: izzointeractive

Yes. Yes! For me, this goes back to the fact that we are better at remembering how something feels rather than (in most cases, at least), how something looks. And I’m not convinced there is anything that influences the feel of an urban landscape more than the trees.

Christian Science Plaza_Eye Tunes

The power of soil: look at how much larger and more lush the plaza trees are compared to the street trees, just adjacent, on the left. Flickr credit: EyeTunes

Boston’s Christian Science Plaza is a striking example of this. Of course, they’re unusual: they are in an iconic site and have a suspended pavement system that made their longevity viable rather than just aspirational. But there is no reason that sites like this have  to be the exception. Think of how much more wonderful our cities would be – how much more sustainable, safe, and just plain nicer planes – if they had trees like this on their streets?

Flickr credit: James Grimmelman

Oh, and here’s a link to what quincunx means, if you’re curious (I was).