Friday, April 30, 2010

Arch as Destination or Arch as Urban Fabric?

Or both?

For the past 40 + years, the Arch has been a destination. Unfortunately, in the way it is cut off from downtown by the highway, the Arch is not much a part of the urban fabric of St. Louis. Sponsors of the design competition compare the setting of the Arch to an island. Others have less charitable words to describe it.

Now we are entering an historic competition to determine the future of the Arch grounds and hopefully transform our downtown area, the Arch, the riverfront, and the connections between all of them.

This week the five finalist teams for the Arch design competition introduced themselves to St. Louis. They have a big job ahead of them. Estimates on the numbers of visitors to the Arch each year approach 3,000,000. Getting those visitors to stay longer in St. Louis after an Arch visit is a goal for our community and the competition.

Another goal of the competition, perhaps the most of all, is to "weave the Arch into the City". We will know in a few months what that looks like in the eyes of the design teams. If the plan succeeds, weaving the Arch into the city will help keep more Arch visitors in St. Louis, and that means increased economic activity for St. Louis and a healthier downtown and region.

The Arch is framed by barriers. The competition is called "Framing a Modern Masterpiece". Ironic? Maybe. The designers are challenged to overcome those barriers - principally the highway - "frame" the Arch, create an iconic setting worthy of the landmark (and St. Louis!), and connecting everything together with the riverfront.

At the "Meet the Design Teams" event, all the designers seemed intrigued by the challenge. This project isn't just about building one building, designing a park or memorial, reinvigorating a dead waterfront, or revitalizing a historic downtown, it's about all of that!

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