St. Louis Arch Landscape Design Competition Down to Five Teams

The City, The Arch, The River, the international design competition that will generate a new design for the park and riverfront around the world-famous St. Louis Arch, has announced five finalists. The winning design team will go on to create extensive new parks, facilities, and transportation networks for the grounds of the Saarinen-design monument. CityArchRiver2015, the non-profit organization sponsoring the competition, says the new landscape must be as iconic as the Arch, provide community green space, better connect the city to the Arch grounds, and improve pedestrian access (see earlier post).

The St. Louis Dispatch said Mayor Francis Slay praised the finalists: “We now can see what the world’s most prominent designers have put into images, what we all have been thinking about.” He gave the project his support, adding: “I am fully committed to this project. I have been in awe of the Arch ever since I saw the last piece being put into place.”

Some 49 teams were narrowed down to nine semi-finalists (see earlier post), and now five finalists. The five teams provided detailed presentations, including images and narratives, of their proposals:

Behnisch team: “In considering the challenges of invigorating the Arch Grounds, the greater St. Louis region and the Mississippi River, our design approach intends to utilize a strategic series of design moves, evolutionary in nature, to arrive at a transcendent, holistic, visionary statement – a ‘catalytic main event’ that resonates with an international community. The most significant part of any design rests in ‘civic sustainability’ – the ability to sustain the present and future needs and ambitions of a larger, diverse community.”

The Behnisch team, which consists of more than 20 firms and designers, also includes well-known German landscape architect, Herbert Dreiseitl, International ASLA (read an interview). 

Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates team: “Given the site’s sheer immensity, sectional complexity, and competing scales—all in a parcel surrounded by a crushing maze of infrastructure—we believe that expanding the site’s scalar and experiential range is crucial to engaging the wide-ranging competition goals. The creation of a new range of more intimate experiences, based primarily in landscape, will be the main engine for the transformation of the Memorial and its relationship with both the city and the river.”

The MVVA team includes some 15 designers and firms.

PWP Landscape Architecture, Foster + Partners, Civitas team: “PWP Landscape Architecture, Foster + Partners, and Civitas are committed to a seamless integration of architecture, landscape, and urban design that will respect the Eero Saarinen- and Dan Kiley-designed Arch and grounds while re-imagining the visitor experience, re-engaging the memorial with its natural and built environment, and elevating the meaning and performance of the landscape.”

The PWP team consists of some 20 designers and firms.

SOM, Hargreaves, BIG: “Our team will seek an eloquent vision for the Mississippi Riverfront as it is now and what it can become in the future. We will develop ideas which will strengthen St. Louis and East St. Louis relationships with the River and build new, stronger and more connected neighborhoods around the Memorial grounds. We are committed to a healthier, more accessible, and richer Riverfront.”

The SOM, Hargreaves, BIG team consists of some 15 firms.

Weiss/Manfredi team: “The Framing a Modern Masterpiece competition has the obvious potential to connect cities as well as the urgent need to bridge communities, extend economies, recover ecologies, and intertwine divergent histories for a sustainable future. From a context of social, cultural, ecological, and infrastructural complexity, an innovative and elegant design will emerge. We believe this competition represents a compelling opportunity to frame a transformative sequence of experiences that engage the complex histories and identities that define our communities, cities, and nation.”

The Weiss/Manfredi team consists of almost 30 designers and firms, including Biohabitats, an ecological restoration firm, and D.I.R.T. Studio, landscape remediation specialists.

The competition was announced in December 2009. The eight-person jury is set to pick a winning design on September 24.

The National Park Service expects the project to cost more than $300 million. CityArchRiver2015, which is organizing funding from federal and state governments, foundations, and private organizations, is hoping to complete construction by Oct. 28, 2015, the 50th anniversary of the topping of the Gateway Arch.

Image credits: (1) Michael Defilippo / The Architect’s Newspaper, (2) Behnisch team, (3) Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates team, (4) PWP Landscape Architecture, Foster + Partners, Civitas team, (5) SOM, Hargreaves, BIG team, (6) Weiss / Manfredi team.

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