Friday, November 07, 2008

Keynote Speaker Challenges Arch Planners

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.

Shanghai Before:

Shanghai After:

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

Pittsburgh, PA


Sparky said...

I'm confused - I thought Memorial Drive was the main focus. Has the scope now been expanded to include the levee and surrounding areas? Is this a reappearance of the defunct riverfront redevelopment proposals from 2005, which were then shelved due to flood control issues? Is it because now the Park Service is taking a more active interest?

GMichaud said...

I believe Alex Krieger is exactly correct. I agree on two points especially. One that thinking about the arch grounds in relationship to the surrounding area (and even to the rest of downtown) is essential.
If this is not done it will end up being another isolated effort without integration to the larger city.
In addition the city grid should extend at least into the edges of the park. The complete isolation of the arch grounds from the downtown area is pure madness. What is the point in maintaining a huge plot of vacant land that is underutilized because it does not relate successfully to the surrounding city?
Any loss of green space will be made up with an accessible, viable park for residents and visitors alike.
It would become a true public space, almost like a public square instead of a dead zone.
I believe a new memorial drive would be a step in the right direction, however it's main fault is that it does not accomplish the comprehensive reconnection with the city and the downtown area that is needed.
If this is going to be done at all, it should be given the fullest consideration of how to make this park a part of the city again.
Otherwise the project might as well be left to the next generation, who will have to correct many other urban planning failures in efforts to achieve the quality of life a well designed city can represent.