CITY-ARCH-RIVER ST. LOUIS
St. Louis, MO (2010–2015)
The Jefferson National Expansion Memorial (JNEM) in St. Louis, Missouri is the site of a modern icon – the Gateway Arch – and a historic 91-acre landscape by Dan Kiley. At the time of The City + The Arch + The River international design competition in 2010, the site’s challenges were varied and complex: the city sought improvements to its downtown and relief from the interstate highway stranglehold on its riverfront. At the same time, the National Park Service, which manages the memorial, sought more sustainable management practices to engage new audiences and visitors, and to define an expanded role for itself in the region. Through the creation of accessible connections to the site, which realized Modernist elements first conceived by Kiley and architect Eero Saarinen but never implemented, and by introducing management practices related to regional ecologies, MVVA’s winning entry to the competition identified common ground among the project partners and presented design and planning solutions that were both visionary and constructible.
As of today, the MVVA team has led many of the landscape improvements defined in the competition through design and documentation phases and into implementation. In-progress and recently completed elements include a new multi-modal riverfront boulevard with event and vendor space; enhanced, accessible pedestrian connections from the city to the JNEM site via the Park over the Highway and from the JNEM site to the riverfront via the East Slopes paths; the transformation of a former parking garage into the North Gateway area which includes a bike path, gardens and event spaces for public use; a soils improvement program which borrows radish and rye cover crop techniques from Mid-Western agricultural science and incorporates compost tea applications to restore soil biology; revitalization of the city's Kiener Plaza with new play and public spaces; and the acquisition and planting of nearly 900 matching London planetrees along the park’s historic allées in order to forestall devastation by the Emerald Ash Borer (the allées were previously planted with ash trees) and further Kiley’s original landscape intent. Within the next two years, an addition to the Museum of Westward Expansion located beneath the Gateway Arch will greatly expand and modernize exhibition space, while a new public plaza at the museum’s west end will offer a more direct and inviting entry from the downtown to the Arch.
The Memorial is a pilot project for a new kind of urban National Park, one that is oriented – physically and culturally – toward the life of the city and supports and celebrates regional ecologies within its urban context. This new role for the Park Service, in turn, serves as a foundation for the sustained social and economic vitality of the city of St. Louis.