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First Church of Christ Scientist

Project Summary

Client: First Church of Christ

Project Type: Institutional

Project Timeframe: 1981

Architects: Athfield Architects

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Project Description

Although built in 1981, the First Church of Christ the Scientist remains one of Wellington’s most extraordinary buildings. Its success helped establish LT McGuinness’s reputation as a company that can handle complex and architecturally challenging jobs.

The inside columns are ceramic pipes, called ‘tortured columns’. Each one is shaped differently but together they must still support the building. Two extend through the roof to the exterior and the rest are crowned with pink pottery petals where they meet the roof’s interior.

External rooftop stairs to a dome have a surreal sense of going nowhere and on the dome a stained glass window ‘eye’ looks askew out on to Willis Street. ‘Is it a whale, a turtle, a praying mantis or perhaps a prehistoric monster?’ asked the Evening Post newspaper when the church was built.

The gutter is full of water so that light is reflected onto the mirrored ceiling, creating a shimmering effect on the church rostrum.  Irregular Matakana tiles are used, the floor slopes and the organ is incorporated into the big external eye. The stained glass windows with their timber shutters are award winners and at the rear of the church is a waterfall and pond in a mosaic tiled area.

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