By Judith Rubin — In Saint Louis, Missouri USA, the CityArchRiver 2015 project is set to be completed October 28, 2015 to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Gateway Arch, part of Jefferson National Expansion Memorial National Park. This enduring icon of the city and the nation, designed by Eero Saarinen, symbolizes the city’s historic status as Gateway to the West.
CityArchRiver 2015 will reinforce the physical connections between the Arch, the Mississippi riverfront on which it sits, and the adjoining downtown areas including the Old Courthouse. It is also being tied in with the River Ring, an integrated city/county trail system of Great Rivers Greenway. The freeway dividing the Arch grounds from downtown will be overlaid with an extension of the park. There will be new landscaping, pathways and architectural features including a new entrance to The Museum of Westward Expansion, which is inside the Arch structure at ground level along with the Visitor Center. The project is being partly funded through a sales tax passed in April 2013 to support improvements to the Arch grounds along with parks and trails throughout the St. Louis region. Approximately $90 million will be bonded for the project from that revenue.
CityArchRiver 2015 is a public-private partnership and the project price tag is estimated at $380 million. More than $57 million has been secured through federal, local and private sources (USDOT, MoDOT, and CityArchRiver 2015 Foundation), covering construction of the Park Over the Highway and I-70 connections associated with the project. Construction begins this summer on those elements. The Riverfront component of the project is fully funded and Great Rivers Greenway will start construction in early 2014. Additional fundraising is targeting $250 million worth of private gifts and grants.
Landscape architect Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates Inc. won the international design competition to take the lead in design and development. Other key players on the design team, specifically involved either in the refresh of the Old Courthouse or the Arch Museum/Visitor Center, or both, include Cooper Robertson and Partners, James Carpenter Design Associates, Trivers Associates and Haley Sharpe Design. More information about the design team is available at this link.
Haley Sharpe Design is providing new exhibits for the Old Courthouse and the Museum of Westward Expansion – including the loading areas for the tram that takes visitors to the top of the Arch. Bill Haley, design director, reports that design development is nearly complete and that they are on schedule for completing the new exhibits by October 2015. His company has about 10 people working in-house on the project, with the core team made up of Haley, Alistair Hinshelwood, Nichole Mackereth, Dave Donoghue, Anthony Chadwick and project manager Ron Watson. David Willrich’s company DJW is subcontracted to provide the technical integration. Media production work will be bid out over the next 4-5 months, followed by fabrication work.
Ample visitor data has been collected in the nearly half-century since the Arch first opened, and Haley Sharpe’s team has studied it, especially the information of the past 20-30 years. “We’ve established new numbers for a Design Day and Peak Day,” says Haley. “The Arch gets at least 40 peak days annually, which is two to four times what most facilities get. July 4 is the busiest day. The profile stays about the same from year to year, even if overall numbers are down or up.” New visitation that CityArchRiver will elicit is being taken into account.
Part of Haley Sharpe’s job, in this age of connectivity, will be to interface their work with the data and IT end of things, for the sake of smooth and compatible operations and maintenance.
As part of reconfiguring the queuing areas for what Haley calls the “1960s historic ride up the Arch,” the old displays and interactives are being removed and the area stripped back for a full AV and lighting retrofit. (The Arch opened in 1965; the ride was installed in 1967.) A visitor entering the Arch will typically either have a pre-purchased, timed ticket for the ride, or buy one on the spot. While waiting for their time to load, they usually browse in the Museum of Westward Expansion. The museum exhibit areas are being reorganized into a series of 6 themed zones with touch screens, animations and videos exploring significant events and locales of Saint Louis.
The new entrance will bring visitors in pointed Eastward, “but the experience is about going West,” Haley points out, “so there’ll be a big map on the floor to reinforce that message.” Westward travelers of frontier-settling times will be represented life-size on three very large, rear-projection screens, and appear to approach and greet visitors. “They will inhabit the space with you,” says Haley, “and continue to appear throughout the experience.” Throughout the exhibitions the designers are striving to evoke the grandness, the light, the sweep, the curves, the scale and dynamism of the Arch and the American landscape, reflecting those through scale, shape, lighting and content. “It’s all about big landscapes and preserving that feeling of scale,” says Haley. A dynamic, animated wall spanning the full width of the tram lobby will display the innovative construction of Saarinen’s and St Louis’s vision, telling the story of the city’s decision to embark on the great monument.
Historic currents and motifs that run through the guest experience include the founding of Saint Louis and its economic rise as Gateway to the West, Thomas Jefferson’s vision for Western expansion, the statue of Jefferson, the shift that happened when officially, in 1890, the frontier was deemed “closed,” and Saarinen’s architectural vision. Haley Sharpe has a track record with American history exhibits, including Jamestown 2007 , Fort McHenry National Historic Shrine in Baltimore, an exhibit in Topeka National Park detailing the story of the Brown vs Board of Education Supreme Court decision, and the new Hangar in Tuskegee relating stories of heroic Tuskegee Airmen during World War II. To ensure authenticity and accuracy for its CityArchRiver work, the design firm is working with various scholars’ groups as well as National Parks historian Bob Moore and other local experts.
For a century and a half, the Old Courthouse has been one of St. Louis’ most prominent architectural landmarks. As the site of the first two trials of the pivotal Dred Scott case in 1847 and 1850, and where Virginia Minor’s case for a woman’s right to vote came to trial in the 1870s, the Old Courthouse is a legacy of the 19th century judicial system in the US.
This grand venue contains four exhibit galleries, a rotunda and two courtrooms and is primarily a destination for tourists and school groups. The CityArchRiver updating, being done in partnership with the National Park Service, will include new wayfinding elements and accessibility points. Exhibits provided by Haley Sharpe will examine the Dred Scott case and its legacy, the role of law and courthouses in addressing complexities of human civilization such as frontier settlement, citizenship, probate and aspects of daily life, slavery (the Old Courthouse was a past location of slave sales) and the historic building itself.
Haley indicates that the exhibits will engage visitors and draw them into key decision points, presenting multiple perspectives on issues to encourage people to formulate their own views. Contemporary AV and interactive technology will share space with artifacts and exhibit panels and provide flexibility for future updates. The rotunda will be the hub from which visitors can choose to enter any of the four galleries at their own pace and inclination.
Saint Louis is home to many great, long-established museums and one of the goals for Haley Sharpe is to tell the story at the Arch in a way that complements what the other institutions have to offer. Naturally all the local institutions have their eye on the Arch and many are also sprucing up: The Saint Louis Art Museum has just opened a major new wing, the Zoo is expanding, the 100-year-old downtown library recently reopened after an elaborate, $70 million restoration, the Missouri History Museum will be served by the new Loop Trolley (expected to be complete in 2014), and there’s talk of an upgrade at the James McDonnell Planetarium at the Saint Louis Science Center, which just turned 50.
More about the Gateway Arch – from the book “Eero Saarinen: Shaping the Future” edited by Eeva-Liisa Pelkonen and Donald Albrecht (ISBN 0-9724881-2-x)
In 1947-48, a local nonprofit corporation sponsored an open national design competition in two stages for the United States Jefferson National Expansion Memorial… The winning design was to be recommended to the United States Department of the Interior… The event brought Eero [Saarinen, who won the competition] national renown and launched his career as an independent architect. The main feature of the eight-acre site he designed was the Gateway Arch. Issues arising from a railway line on the site delayed its realization for a decade. Saarinen oversaw preparations for construction, which did not begin until 1963, two years after his death, and was completed on October 28, 1965. The arch was a weighted, rather than a pure or perfect, catenary, 630 feet tall and 630 feet wide at the base. Constructed of concrete shells clad in stainless steel that formed equilateral triangles in cross-section, each of its legs tapered from 54 feet at the base to 17 feet at the top. The fuselage-shaped Observation Platform held up to 140 people and was reached by two trams specially devised for the structure. Severud, Elstad, Krueger Associates was the structural engineering firm. The landscape was designed by Dan Kiley.
[author] [author_image timthumb=’on’]http://4.bp.blogspot.com/-fngvxyYk8nU/US_Ae2Q3YyI/AAAAAAAAGqo/954GDEqn0-g/s200/DSC01396.JPG[/author_image] [author_info]Judith Rubin, co-editor of InPark Magazine, is based in Saint Louis. She will be reporting regularly on CityArchRiver 2015 with an emphasis on the creative companies involved. ([email protected]) [/author_info] [/author]