The winner of the St. Louis Arch International Design Competition wasn't meant to be announced until Friday, but it seems the cat is out of the bag and the winning design team will be led by Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates! The purpose of the competition was to redesign and enliven the area around the famed St. Louis Gateway Arch, better connecting the national monument to city's downtown, the Mississippi River and the Illinois bank. The MVVA Team competed against four other well-known firms, but it was their plan, which integrates sustainable landscaping, that "presented a winning combination of the ambitious and the manageable."
MVVA, who was also responsible for the redesign of Pennsylvania Avenue at the White House, and the design of Brooklyn Bridge Park, has considerable experience in designing urban landscapes. Their plan for the redesign of the area of the national monument fully integrates each the waterfront, the Illinois bank, the immediate surrounding streetscape, and downtown St. Louis area. Within their submission, MVVA proposes a series of new parks, squares, restaurants and recreational activity space all landscaped according to the ecology of the locality and river, which utilizes organic landscaping practices.
Some of the highlights of the proposed plan include lowering the I-70 as it runs downtown and creating a rooftop park that will connect the memorial to both the downtown area and the Old Courthouse. Moreover a larger “Underpass Park” will be created below I-64 as it crosses the river into downtown. The Museum of Westward Expansion will also find a new location at the base of the Arch, beneath ground, and crowned with green space atop.
The large parking structure on the north end will be removed an be replaced with three smaller structures around the park space, and the new Urban Ecology Center will be constructed along with new playgrounds and an earthern amphitheater. Conversely the south end will include areas for various seasonal programs such a beer garden, ice rink, recreational space, cafes and event areas.
MVVA also proposes to restore wetland ecologies and to manufacture a new habitat for a diversity of bird species. The design team has proposed constructing an elevated walkway on the east bank of the river that will let visitors walk at the height of the treetops and observe this new ecosystem and experience the birds at eye level. MVVA also proposes the reconstruction of brick-paved walkway connecting from the levee up to the arch, in addition to pre-cast concrete “river gauges” to help define the water level. Solar powered lights atop of the gauges will increase in intensity as the river’s water level rises.
MVVA will travel to St. Louis on Friday to hear the official announcement of their win, but they will then immediately start working with the National Park Service and the City of St. Louis to refine the plan, begin feasibility studies and determine a budget for the project. Completion of the redevelopment is expected in 2015– a date that also marks to the arch’s 50 year anniversary.
The MVVA Team is an impressive lineup of design experts and firms, including Steven Holl Architects, Greenberg Consultants, Uhlir Consulting, HR&A Advisors, Guy Nordenson and Associates, Arup, LimnoTech, Pine and Swallow Environmental, Applied Ecological Services, Ann Hamilton Studio, James Carpenter Design Associates, Cooper Robertson & Partners, Elizabeth K. Meyer, Project Projects, Vector Communications, and ABNA Engineering.