For the first time in a half century, the National Park Service is revisiting one of the world’s most iconic monuments – The Gateway Arch – to integrate the magnificent memorial and its grounds with St. Louis, the Mississippi River and Illinois on the other side. They’ve announced a new international design competition, calling on the world’s best designers and architects. The competition starts now.
This story begins in September 1947, when a national design competition was held to produce a memorial to Thomas Jefferson’s Louisiana Purchase and the era of American Westward Expansion. The jury chose the most audacious entry – a gleaming 630-foot stainless steel arch, the first of several masterpieces by the gifted but short-lived Eero Saarinen.
Completed in 1965, the Gateway Arch instantly became an international destination and won immediate recognition as one of the world’s premier works of public art.
Time has been kind to the Arch, which still astonishes with its boldness and beauty. The grounds immediately surrounding it, designed by the late Dan Kiley, are also widely regarded as a masterpiece. But the site has become a kind of island – severed and isolated from the rest of the city – on its west, north, and south – and from the Mississippi River and points east.
Now, in the spirit of Saarinen, new inspiration is being sought. A call has been issued in accordance with a new General Management Plan by the National Park Service to better “frame” this American masterpiece. The goals: weave it back into the fabric of the city and the region … rejuvenate connections … welcome and draw people for repeated visits … and re-energize the region for living, working and visiting. As in 1947, this competition aims to invite and extract “the best from the best” to create a model for integrating open space into a city’s urban fabric. All with a construction finish line of October 28, 2015 … the 50th anniversary of the completion of the Arch.