Church Court

Graham Gund Associates, 1983Landscape design: Carol R. Johnson Associates, Inc.

Harleston Parker Medal, 1985

A spectacular fire in mid-1978 ravaged the Mount Vernon Church designed by Walker and Kimball in 1891. Architect/developer Graham Gund purchased the remains, scarred but romantic, and built out a 42-condominium development.

New construction is woven into the ruins, rising up to seven stories in some locations, dropping down in others, and defining a center courtyard. Projecting bays echo the verticality of the church tower and steeply sloping pediment, and the fined grained scale of the Back Bay context. Some of the units are fairly conventional; many look out over the Charles River. The tower is a single five story condo – definitely designed for the physically fit.

The orange-ish brick, planar walls and aggressive ornamentation are a striking contrast to the church’s dark brown rusticated stone, and are the kind of abstractions of traditional architectural forms that characterize postmodern architecture of the 1980s. In its prime this was an influential development.

Images: Above: © Peter Vanderwarker, 2014 Below: Courtesy of, taken in 2013