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Finalists named in competition for Gateway Arch site

April 7, 2010 |  4:27 pm

Arch Five finalists have been named in one of the most intriguing design competitions now underway in any American city: the effort to design a new park to help re-energize the area surrounding Eero Saarinen's 1965 Gateway Arch in St. Louis. The five finalists, announced Wednesday, include some of the biggest names in architecture and landscape architecture, along with a small number of up-and-comers and less familiar figures.

On the landscape side are Berkeley's Peter Walker (working with architects Foster and Partners) and New York's Michael Van Valkenburgh (with architect Steven Holl). Architects Skidmore, Owings & Merrill are joining forces with the young Danish architect Bjarke Ingels and landscape architect George Hargreaves, while New York architects Weiss/Manfredi are paired with artist Mark Dion. The fifth finalist is architecture firm Behnisch Architekten, with offices in Stuttgart and Los Angeles.

The teams will now begin work on formal design concepts, which are expected to be publicly displayed beginning in August of this year. A winner will be chosen in September, with construction of a new park set for completion by 2015, to mark the 50th anniversary of the arch.

The goal of the project suggests the growing prominence of landscape architecture in American design culture. Organizers say they hope to create a park as iconic on the ground as Saarinen's design is in the air. Fans of landscape architecture may know that the original landscape design directly beneath the arch is by the great Dan Kiley. But the site has few connections to the nearby Mississippi River waterfront or to the larger city, something the competition is meant to address.

--Christopher Hawthorne

Credit: Photograph of the Gateway Arch by Flickr user zoonabar