For those wondering whether the design charette for the future of the Arch and riverfront in downtown St. Louis would be a “think big” effort, based on last night’s keynote presentation, they should be encouraged.
Alex Krieger, professor or architecture at Harvard University, and principal in the firm Chan, Krieger, and Sieniewicz, opened the design charette with an hour long presentation highlighting dramatic riverfront transformation projects from around the world. Chan Krieger has been directly involved with a number of these.
Krieger showed slides of current and planned projects where underutilized waterfront areas are being restored as beautiful and vibrant centers of activity. His practice has developed a number of principles to guide the redevelopment of waterfront areas. He challenged the participants in this weekend's Arch/riverfront design charette to consider these principles as they develop their design concepts.
Chan Krieger's ten principles of waterfront planning are as follows:
1. Waterfronts change over time. They can evolve from old industrial, to recreation, to desirable neighborhood.
2. The aura of a city resides along the waterfront.
3. People have a natural instinct to preserve and reinvent waterfronts. Those that reinvent have been more successful than those trying to preserve.
4. Mind the gaps (places that separate the city from the waterfront, like our depressed lanes or blockages from obsolete structures).
5. Downtown waterfront revitalization is the best antidote to generic development.
6. Successful urban waterfronts must be a desirable place to live.
7. The public demands access to the water.
8. The appeal of landside developments are intrinsically linked to the appeal of the waterfront.
9. Prioritize the role of perpendicular corridors, such as city streets, connecting to the waterfront.
10. Waterfronts are the umbilical chords which connect people to nature.
Krieger noted that in St. Louis, our challenge is three-fold. Not only is our waterfront a challenge, but the “lawn” (Arch grounds) is too wide, and the first couple of blocks of our downtown next to the Arch/riverfront are not appealing. Krieger is challenging designers to look beyond the limits of the immediate riverfront and Arch grounds.
Krieger noted that waterfront revitalization projects have the opportunity to be "catalytic, watershed" projects. He gave examples of many projects opening up new areas for residential, recreational, and commercial development.
The most dramatic images Krieger presented were of waterfront revitalization efforts in Seoul, Shanghai, Dallas, Boston, New Orleans, and Montreal. The efforts in these cities provide examples of the possible. Kreiger noted that a regional mandate is required for a successful, long range waterfront revitalization effort.
Krieger is thinking big. Applying the prinicples laid out last night, St. Louis should be looking far beyond the four corners of the Arch grounds, and thinking how to reposition it's riverfront from Chouteau's Landing north to the new Mississippi River Bridge, incorporating trails, perpendicular connections to the city street grid, and multiple points of interest and human activity. Krieger's visions are long term, connecting multiple generations.
With the old power station north of downtown, LaClede's Landing, the Arch site, and emerging Chouteau's Landing neighborhood, St. Louis has the physical assets. Our challenge is how will we use them.
The public is invited to attend parts of this weekend's charette. Tonight at 6:30 pm, Steinberg Auditorium on the Washington University campus, there is a panel discussion with local experts discussing the history and future of the Arch and riverfront. This Sunday, from noon - 4 pm at the Mansion House, participants in the charette will present their concepts for the future of the Arch, downtown, and riverfront.
Some examples from Chan Krieger's riverfront planning work:
Trinity River in Dallas
Anacostia Waterfront in Washington, DC