The jury may have decided upon a winner a week or more ago, but we now have a look into why MVVA came away as the winner of the Arch grounds design competition and the other high-powered teams did not. In one sentence: MVVA struck the proper balance of reverence for the JNEM, expertise and ability, new ideas to invigorate the Arch grounds. The full summary report from the jury and MVVA evaluation excerpt are below. The jury also ranked teams and placed the five finalists in the following order:
1. MVVA Team
MVVA excerpt from summary report:
The MVVA Team
This plan successfully addresses each of the design goals and is an appropriate fit for St. Louis. A strong team with solid methodology, they convey intelligence and provide clear technical support for their design proposals. This scheme appears as one that can realistically be implemented by 2015.
1. Create an iconic place for the international icon, the Gateway Arch
As the most landscape solution, this proposal has minimal buildings. The proposed structures are woven into the landscape. It is a superb overall plan for the original grounds with a good entry response to the museum. There is a vagueness regarding the architectural solutions that, in their development, could add to the iconic stature of the place. The west riverfront is an elegant and simple solution with memorable light towers. Continuing the JNEM’s allees into the city as street trees begins to tie the grounds to the city, however, the design of Kiener Plaza and Luther Ely Smith Square needs to be developed further to better make the connection to the Gateway Mall.
2. Catalyze increased vitality in the St. Louis region
The distribution of parking into three separate areas disperses people throughout the area. Parking under Luther Ely Smith square brings people into the downtown corridor. Placement of remote ticketing facilities/kiosks throughout the city is an excellent idea that ties multiple venues together and may increase the time visitors spend in the area. The design solutions are considered strategic moves to incentivize private development – each section should result in a positive private development reaction.
3. Honor the character defining elements of the National Historic Landmark
The proposal shows a superior technical knowledge of the site and effectively analyzes the dilemma of historic preservation versus a changing landscape. A superb overall plan for the Arch grounds, the landscape restoration is a well thought out response to repairing the Kiley landscape that seeks to enhance the original vision. A most thoughtful approach to the historic landscape, the design is realistic and shows much reverence and skill. Integration of structures and a carefully scaled new entrance to the expanded museum are woven into the landscape to provide minimal disruption to the historic landscape. The design considers security and addresses how to integrate the bollards into the grounds.
4. Weave connections and transitions from the City and the Arch grounds to the River
The proposal truly focuses on transforming the edges of JNEM to make new connections into the city. The new museum entry on Memorial Drive is subtle and respectful, but accomplishes the direct connection to the west. Dispersing parking into multiple locations and reliance on existing downtown parking spreads people out throughout the area. The street trees along Luther Ely Smith Square and Kiener Plaza form a visual continuance of JNEM's allees into the city. The insertion of a plaza and new banquet/café facility creates a "place" for the Old Cathedral and provides a transition from urban downtown to the more serene JNEM. The connection through Laclede’s Landing is a strong idea on how to draw the area into the overall plan; however, closing Washington Avenue is not a feasible solution. Vitality is brought to the north end by provision of an amphitheater/civic space for people to gather. A connection is made from JNEM to Choteau's Landing by reconceiving the underpass area as a park and creating a theme of an artist's district. The simple and elegant west waterfront promenade allows access to the river. A proposed bicycle loop connects the entire area.
5. Embrace the Mississippi River and the east bank in Illinois as an integral part of the National Park
The cobblestone beach is a simple and lovely, yet bold, treatment for the western river front. It recalls and celebrates the historic waterfront of the city. Repeating this cobblestone treatment on the Memorial Drive lid shows continuity and helps link the overall site. The lighted river gauges are brilliant. The floating pavilions are not well described and appear to be an after-thought.
An inventive response to the east bank, the design is a well-conceived bottomland and excellent contribution to restoring the environment. The park would be a natural, as opposed to urbanized, attraction. The avian emphasis has synergy with NPS conservation and biodiversity. While the elevated walkways and avian center are beautiful, some Jurors felt the high path is not persuasive and the program does little for East St. Louis other than its positive environmental contribution. The wetland reserve could be interpreted as wastewater infrastructure. The program needs to be thought through more to create an invitation for East St. Louis to be part of the region. It has a good connection to and respects the existing features of the Malcolm Martin Memorial Park, but is overall too passive regarding new development and use. Additionally, the swell along the east waterfront is a simple, flood friendly solution for performances and temporary programming.
6. Reinvigorate the mission to tell the story of St. Louis as the gateway to national expansion
With a well-developed museum expansion, the proposal paid some attention to the needs for temporary exhibits and climate control. The revitalization of the cobblestone levee recalls the historical significance of the St. Louis waterfront.
7. Create attractors to promote extended visitation to the Arch, the City and the River
The plan places energetic activities at the edge of JNEM to complement the calm reverence of the interior. Modest but active program creates a place for residents as well as visitors. The event/gathering space provides a venue for programmed activity. Recreation and sports venues draw return visits. The beer garden/ice rink would be a success, but a replacement facility for maintenance is not mentioned. The projection of peoples’ shadows on the flood walls is exciting and the river gauges are intriguing.
8. Mitigate the impact of transportation systems
The proposal calls for a modest deck across Memorial Drive to dampen the noise from I-70 and create a more pedestrian friendly environment. Closure of Washington Avenue from Memorial Drive to the river is a mistake. The reasoning for that recommendation is not clear. The team cleverly analyzed the existing parking in downtown and provided a good proposal for decentralized parking and utilizing parking throughout the downtown. The alterations to the existing garage are not well thought out including the location of the entrance/exit in the flood zone.
9. Develop a sustainable future
The proposal shows a strong understanding of sustainability. It is an intelligent and sensible selection of design moves. This is the only team to mention geothermal possibilities in JNEM. The team has a strong understanding of plant materials, soil, and landscape health and what is needed to refurbish ailing plants and trees. The proposed scheme for the grounds is designed to reduce maintenance. The east bank wetlands reserve provides environmental remediation.
10. Enhance the visitor experience and create a welcoming and accessible environment
Remote ticketing is a good idea that makes a big change in how people who visit the Arch interact with St. Louis. New ADA compatible routes are provided. It is a superb overall plan of original grounds with good entry response to museum.