The Gateway Arch, a Global Icon, Reconnects to St. Louis

By on March 12, 2018

From CityLab:  Until recently, the grounds of St. Louis’ Gateway Arch were as hemmed in and isolated as the shimmering catenary curve that defines the city is grand and imperious.

Walled off by a 1,200-car parking garage on one side and a freeway gulch on the other, the arch was a car-choked hub of tourist activity: good for driving to, parking, snapping a few photos, and driving out again. The city-scaled sculpture by architect Eero Saarinen could never be an intimate part of the neighborhood.

But the landscape architects at Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates (MVVA) have found ways to amplify the arch’s appeal through the neighborly connection of park to street to river. They have renovated and expanded the arch grounds, originally designed by famed Modernist landscape architect Dan Kiley. New parks adjacent to the grounds are intended to funnel activity to the riverfront and work as connective urban tissue for the city’s most iconic feature, as well as to serve as a pedestal for that quicksilver curve.

The Gateway Arch has long been an international destination. But now its setting has the potential to become a civic front yard, and you might just happen upon it organically.

Sunken beneath the arch is a museum, newly expanded by the design firms Cooper Robertson, James Carpenter Design Associates, and Trivers Associates. Fronted by a circular water feature and seating, the museum will tell the story of America’s westward migration from a variety of perspectives. Visitors will enter via a grand mezzanine that leads to several galleries, including one on the building of the arch.

The revamped grounds are mostly open now, but will formally reopen with the museum in July. They are the result of years of work and $380 million, including $221 million in private funding. That makes the refreshed Jefferson National Expansion Memorial, as it is officially called, the largest public-private partnership investment in a U.S. National Park ever.

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