“Rendering” a Verdict on the Arch Grounds Designs

It's been fun to read what each of the five finalist Arch competition design teams envision for the future of the St. Louis riverfront. Better yet, though less informative, has been oohing and aahing at the incredible images of a future city offered by the teams. We will likely not see everything proposed by the winning team built, but are the renderings even plausible at all?

As KMOX's Michael Calhoun astutely reiterated via Twitter from the design team jury interviews this past week, "The Mississippi River is NOT blue!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!" But it does look great in blue! The muddy brown likely doesn't make the proposed riverside seating, concerts and pedestrian bridges look quite as nice. This article is a not-so-serious effort, but the issue of accurate architectural renderings is a serious one. We've all become used to some extra flourish, lots of lights, maybe fireworks, lots of happy skinny people…but there's surely a line somewhere. Is a team that promotes an amphitheater obligated to show how it would appear 350 days of the year – sparsely populated, maybe not newly mown? Or should a space be shown used to its potential?

The Arch competition renderings, on balance, do not grossly oversell, but here are the renderings that stood out to me, the least believable, most problematic, just questionable renderings that appeared in the design team narratives:

{a looming storm sets the dramatic mood, cocoon gondola and floating balloons, as well as lake-like river (Behnisch)}

{in what looks like an Olympic Games plan, dozens of new downtown buildings facing the Arch are bathed in blue light, more lighting and fireworks are added (Behnisch)}

{a farmer's market is unlikely, but the distance one would need to walk to get there would apparently do the community good – lots of thin, fit people here (SOM)}

{runner, biker, rollerblader, kids, dogs, the new MacArthur Bridge has it all – the young man in a suit to the right likely walked more than a mile to the east side of the river to contemplate the scene (SOM)}

{every mound shows picnic goers, they've thoughtfully spread out and apparently find the view from any mound equally pleasing (SOM)}

{another farmer's market enlivens the levee, no matter how impractical – the clientele seem a little more realistic at least (MVVA)}

{the over-under on the number of years to get an allee like this is 50 years – just in time for the 100th Anniversary of the Arch's completion (MVVA)}

{another image of the new allee circa 2065 (PWP)}

{more mature forest and swamp land decades in the future (PWP)}

{a placid blue river and every nook and cranny lit up (Wiess-Manfredi)}

{the river's high, but blue and calm – people nearly dip their toes in the water while watching a band plan on an impossibly small performance stage (Weiss-Manfredi)}