Friday, August 20, 2010

Happy Birthday Eero Saarinen!

Finally made it to the arch. My hope was to glean from the speakers at this evenings panel discussion which one of the 5 prospective plans for the arch grounds are most consistent with those of Eero Saarinen and Dan Kiley.

The speakers tonight includued an archivist, a historian, an architect involved as a student in assiting the jury in the 1947 competition, a project manager working for Eero Saarinens office and lastly, Susan Saarinen, the daughter of Eero Saarinen who is a landscape architect herself. Informative and insightful as it was, the presentation didn't include any information about the current contest.

What I did get which was totally unexpected, was a rush of excitement for what we have the opportunity to witness and enjoy: a long deserved makeover of the archgrounds and respective property across the river. I say 'deserved,' because the arch grounds are a National Park, and based on every other National Park I've been to, it just doesn't stack up. Interestingly, looking at many of the designs from the 1947 contest including the winning design, their plans were much more than what we were left with.

All along I've called for people to participate in this. That's important. While the judges for this year's contest are undoubtedly qualified to process the challenge before them, and it is a challenge, they aren't motivated by what's BEST FOR ST LOUIS like we are. Public input is allowed ONLY THROUGH MONDAY!!! Seeing bicycle and pedestrian trails linking the Missouri portion of the park with the new attractions planned for the east side was exciting for me. Seeing the new venues for the archgrounds like concert space, fountains and all kinds of other improvements was fantastic. After my trip last month to San Antonio and seeing how well they tied their downtown to the Riverwalk, its clear that we can do so much with the Arch grounds that exponentially improves our viability as a tourist destination and a place for us to build community.

After the presentations, I took my time to try to take in everything about the new plans . My initial front runner is the plan from Weiss / Manfredi Team Concept. They have a St Louis connection in SWT Design out of Webster Groves, and seemed to have a good realistic plan. Some of the plans were hard to understand and will take more time to read.

My goal from here is to spend another hour or so reading and listening to the entries on the web and then submit my input to the National Park Service The form they have at the Arch has specific questions that the webform does not have, like "What do you value about the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial?, and How do each of these designs respect what you value about the Memorial? I'm not sure how important these questions are to the judges, but I'll probably try to answer their questions.

After the evening, I meandered my way through downtown, trying to connect the many perspectives shared in the design competition with the current layout of the Gateway Mall, visiting several attractions like CityGarden, and Serra's Twain before catching the train home. Just like an election day, we only have a finite period to share our ideas about the contest. Its important to get informed now.


Chris Grus said...

An economic boost

Five teams have unveiled their visions for revamping the Arch grounds and riverfront, and it's encouraging to see that all five teams support the eventual removal of Interstate 70 through downtown. This plan has been strongly promoted by the volunteer group City to River and will be the key to reconnecting downtown, the Arch and the Mississippi River and spurring downtown economic development.

As an owner of the Mansion House complex on Fourth Street, my New York-based company has invested and re-invested in downtown over the past 21 years. As a father, I have fond memories of traveling to St. Louis from the East Coast with my family to visit the Arch grounds.

Being a New Yorker, I have a unique perspective. I witnessed the elimination of the Westside Highway in Manhattan and the creation of a grand boulevard south of 57th Street, joining the city with the Hudson River and creating a myriad of residential, tourist, recreational and business activities. In St. Louis, I-70 is creating barriers for tourists and residents looking to gather downtown and is hindering future investment by property owners along the eastern edge of downtown.

Should City to River's proposal to replace I-70 with an urban boulevard move forward, the property across from the Arch could be transformed into a vibrant, pedestrian-friendly venue, providing a significant economic and tourism boost for the city.

Louis Tallarini • New York

exerpted from St Louis Post Dispatch-letters to editor 8/31/10

Anonymous said...

Community Update Tonight!

Team Leader and members will unfold progress on the design and implementation process. A definate must!