The Jefferson National Expansion Memorial in St. Louis is the site of a modern icon—the Gateway Arch—and a historic 91-acre Dan Kiley landscape. But the site is throttled on all sides by a maze of infrastructure, turning it into an island that divides downtown St. Louis from the Mississippi River. The City + The Arch + The River international design competition solicited proposals from five finalists, with the stated goals of reconnecting the city to its waterfront, laying the groundwork for regional revitalization, and expanding the park across the river into Illinois.
The MVVA team’s winning proposal hews closely to the spirit of the Kiley landscape, but revitalizes it in order to reintroduce ecological diversity and function to the currently inert monoculture of lawn. Three new “gateway” gathering areas serve as focal points for emerging neighborhoods at the edges of the site, and create a host of new ways and reasons for both locals and tourists to explore the entirety of the Arch grounds. On the other side of the river, the JNEM East Wetland Preserve uses stormwater gathered from East St. Louis to create sixty acres of new wildlife habitat, while a system of canopy trails elevates visitors above the Mississippi flood berm, allowing them to appreciate the boundless horizon of the American Midwest.
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 one that pioneers new kinds of sustainable urban ecologies. This new role for the Park Service, in turn, serves as a foundation for sustained social and economic vitality on both sides of the Mississippi.