Reflecting pool reopens at the Christian Science Plaza


The reflecting pool at the Christian Science Plaza has started flowing again. / Photo by Samantha Barry

Avery Bleichfeld

As part of an ongoing construction project at the Christian Science Plaza, the Reflecting Pool flows again. A site close to campus, the pool was a staple spot to run through during the annual underwear run before its renovation.

The Reflecting Pool is part of a construction process in the plaza designed to make the area more welcoming to visitors as a destination rather than a pedestrian throughway. The process has been in progress for about 15 years.

Back Bay-Fens resident Keara Murphy, 23, who walks through the plaza at least three times a week, saw adding water to the pool as a major step in its construction.

“Once they added the water in the reflection pond, you know, it’s a gorgeous view, so walking through here definitely makes it more enjoyable,” Murphy said.

Teams filled the pool during a commissioning process to test the new systems beneath the pool installed to fix leakage.

The construction projects began when the water from the Reflecting Pool seeped into the 550-car parking garage below. To fix it, construction crews installed tanks beneath the plaza and surrounding buildings to fix the leakage and to make the water usage more sustainable.

“We can recycle the water that’s in the pool, get the chemicals and stuff out of it, and put it back in,” Herlinger said. “So, we have water for irrigation, water for lawn stuff, and water to refill the pool, so it’s been a major sustainability effort. We’ve probably reduced the water consumption by about two-thirds.”

The new design also made the Reflecting Pool more shallow to reduce the amount of water needed and reduced the length of the pool to create space for a walkway.

Ingrid Peschke, who works for the Christian Science Committee on Publication at The First Church of Christ, Scientist, said the Reflecting Pool was a catalyst for other projects that were developed afterward.

“We began to do some studies, got a team together and we began to develop a directional plan for the site, and we went through a public process,” Herlinger said. “So, we developed some designs, some plans for how we could improve this site and so forth, not only fixing these things, but also making it more accessible.”

Herlinger said he and his team worked to make the area feel welcoming and to turn the plaza into an area for people not just to pass through, but to sit and enjoy the space, making it “more of a destination to be.”

Peschke said adding lawns and green spaces to some parts of the plaza were an important part of that goal. She hopes that green space will “be a lot more of a destination for folks next year when the lawn is fully in,” Peschke said.

Beyond the normal challenges that face a construction site, Herlinger said the teams also had to deal with what he calls “logistical harmony.” He had to balance the needs of congregants, tenants and tourists during ongoing construction.

For Murphy, the construction posed a minimal challenge to her daily routine.

“Occasionally it’s closed off, and then you have to walk through Huntington Ave,” Murphy said. “It really doesn’t add too much time to my route though, so it’s not too much of an inconvenience. If anything it’s less pretty on the eye.”

The logistical harmony extends to the other construction projects occurring on the site, including the four-year project on the church buildings that Peschke said will prepare them for the next 150 years of use. The church construction is tied into the plaza projects with a master plan for the lighting, designed to give a certain feel to the plaza.

Herlinger and Peschke described that feel for the plaza in a series of words, including welcoming, inviting, peaceful, friendly and “sense of home.”

“Our hope is if it means you’re grabbing a bite to eat, maybe you’ll eat on the lawn or you’ll just stop for a while and find that this is as much your home as it is ours,” Peschke said.