In the mid-1940s, when Eero Saarinen proposed his iconic Arch design, telephones had dials, St. Louis had almost 900,000 residents, engineers used slide rules, the first electronic computers were being developed, gasoline cost about 15 cents per gallon and the US had just come out of World War II.
Seventy years later, people use their phones as computers, gasoline costs nearly $3.00 per gallon, the population of St. Louis has dropped by 60 percent, the US lost in Viet Nam but won WW2 and the Cold War, and, we have the internet - the technology that is changing everything.
We live in a different world, one with a trend towards increasing transparency. How will the final five teams in the Arch design competition tailor their work to our current times? Will they take advantage of the internet to engage the public in the design process? Will they seek community input online? Would opening up their design work put them at a competitive disadvantage? Or would it make their proposal stronger?
One of the most interesting elements of the Arch design competition is that this effort is more about fixing broken connections between the Arch, riverfront and downtown, than doing anything with the Arch itself. Those bad connections are where the city of St. Louis meets the National Park.
With the close connection between the City of St. Louis and the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial, how should the public be engaged in the development of the design to reconnect the city to the riverfront and Arch grounds, if at all? The technology is in place to make the design process completely transparent and interactive.
For the Arch design competition, will average citizens get their first glimpse of the design team's plans just weeks before the winning team and design is chosen, or will the general public from both sides of the river be engaged in the process of helping determine the winning design that will set the tone and direction for the future of the Arch grounds, the riverfront, downtown St. Louis, and the region?
(Post edited with thanks to comment from reader "Jeem")