|Meet the Design Teams Program|
Joe Buck hosted the event, mixing humor with obvious passion for St. Louis and the Arch (likening the contestants to "make-up artists for Cindy Crawford"). Buck's anecdotes about the Arch predated his own birth: in 1965, his late father Jack conducted an interview on a platform at the top of the Arch as the keystone piece was dropped in.
Making a strong case for St. Louis and its residents, Buck asked the contestants to "spend some time here and meet the people who make this city great." Buck noted that the project not only represents the most meaningful renovations underaken in the Memorial's history, but is also one of the most intriguing urban projects in the pipeline in the United States.
Don Stastny, the overall manager of the competition, followed Buck's introductory comments—and it is clear that St. Louis is lucky to have him at the helm of this critically important project. Stastny, one of the top competition managers in the country and a recipient of the AIA Thomas Jefferson Award for Public Architecture in 2009, is obviously passionate about the Arch and understands its vital role in the urban landscape of downtown St. Louis. Calling himself "deeply honored and proud" to be involved in the competition, Stastny referred to the Arch as a "tremendous symbol" of which all St. Louisans and Americans should be proud.
Stastny remarked on the numerous "moving parts" involved in the competition, both in terms of disciplines (architecture, urban design, engineering, landscaping, transportation) and natural and manmade features (highways, the river, the Arch, the Archgrounds, and the East Bank). A key point of the competition, noted Stastny, is to weave the Memorial back into the urban fabric. He made the interesting point that when you leave the Memorial, all signs lead you out of town, as opposed to into downtown—something he hopes the renovations will change.
Stastny gave a brief history of the design competition to date, before noting that the recently-begun third and final stage is "where the rubber hits the road." As noted, the teams' design concepts will be unveiled in August at a public event, and will be displayed both at the Memorial and at various rotating spots throughout the city. The final design will be selected in September, with the ribbon cutting scheduled for October 28, 2015—the 50th anniversary of the Arch.
The design teams were then each alloted fifteen minutes for a presentation by their representative(s) on the composition of their team, their general design philosophy, and a sampling of past projects. At this stage, the teams are still speaking in relatively abstract (and similar) terms, but there are some noticeable differences in philosophical approaches:
- The Behnisch Team focused on the "needs of people" (stating that a "good city is a city with a human dimension"), as well as the built environment by calling for the Memorial to become an "active catalyst for urban cohesion."
- The approach of the MVVA Team seems primarily landscape-oriented, stressing that landscape (1) accommodates a humane scale, (2) provides continuity, and (3) is affordable.
- The PWP Landscape Architecture, Foster + Partners, Civitas team (whose representative personally knew both Eero Saarinen and Dan Kiley) advocated "subtle and respectful" changes that, while transformative, are so natural that they're barely noticeable to the majority of the public.
- The SOM, Hargreaves, BIG team stressed "making places for people" (places that are "alive" every day), as well as tying design ideas into a community's bold, long-range plans to "create economic vitality."
- The Weiss/Manfredi team referred to three primary design categories, titled "Icon and Setting," "Connections," and "Layering Programs." The interesting facet of this team's approach was an affinity for embracing barriers (such as highways), by turning them into connections and "capturing their energy" without actually removing them.
In my opinion, the SOM, Hargreaves, BIG team was the most impressive, both from a presentation perspective and with respect to the team members' sample projects, which include Chicago's Millennium Park, San Francisco's Crissy Field (described by the team as "another beloved landscape within the shadow of its national landmark, the Golden Gate Bridge"), Houston's Discovery Green, Louisville's Waterfront Park, and London's Canary Wharf. Apparently Joe Buck felt the same way, given that he jokingly declared the competition "over" after the team's presentation. I would be interested to get reactions from other attendees.
I would have liked a little more specificity and a little less abstraction from the design teams, but in all, this was a really exciting event. It's almost hard to believe that, in only five and a half years, the Memorial and the Missisippi riverfront will (hopefully) be significantly different than they are today. I, for one, know exactly where I will be on October 28, 2015. How often can you say that about a day that is 2,009 days away? Tweet