Gentle Brute

GentleBrute.ChurchDC.2013-10-27I walk or run or bike to and from work practically everyday. My route takes me from my neighborhood in DC, LeDroit, through downtown, to the National Mall, near George Washington University. It’s three miles or so, giving me a goodly amount of time to prepare for the day and listen to podcasts, and then clear my head at the end of the day.

I vary my path somewhat, occasionally taking a longer route through Rock Creek Park, and other times doing what I can to cut corners to get to the office.

My “fast” route takes me by the Third Church of Christ, Scientist, at 16st St. and I St NW, a cement structure built in 1970 in the Brutalist style. The Church has this excellent little corridor to its right, if you are coming down 16th Street, toward the White House, that lets you cut off seconds from your commute. This secret little pathway has a little roof with plants growing from it.

In this etegami, the secret path is on the right side of the card.

DC has a few buildings in this style, the most (in)famous one being the J. Edgar Hoover FBI Building, and others being the HQ of the US Department of Health and Human Services. The Brutalist style is know for its linear, fortresslike, block-ish look, and its use of cement, and is roundly disparaged.

In general, I don’t like Brutalist style architecture myself — very cold and imposing — but this Church is the one example that I love. Not just for its secret pathway, but but because it stands in the midst of cookie-cutter office buildings, just steps from the White House.

Alas, however, the building is not long for this world — the Church of Christian Science intends to demolish it and developers will repurpose the site. DC’s built landscape is constantly changing, I guess I shouldn’t get too hung up about this building’s imminent demise. After all, the site once was the home of a Supreme Court Justtice, Horace Gray, and then was a Christian Science Reading Room, before it became a Brutalist building.

Fingers crossed they keep a secret pathway to allow me to shave seconds off my daily commute.

My photo of the “Brute,” taken on 10/15/13:




  1. An etegami route! How clever! I like the hunkered down aspect of the brutalist style. It seems mythogical – giant sized but gentle. Perhaps it is not meant to. I like seeing the photograph and etegami together.

    1. Thanks Blorgie! Maybe I should think of an etegami map of DC. That may be extending my abilities too far. I’ll do the buildings and sites usually overlooked, not the White House or the Capitol or the Lincoln Memorial. I tried the latter once, it just didn’t come out quite right.

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