Design Review: Revamped Gateway Arch an Urban Success

Pulitzer Prize-winning critic Blair Kamin assesses the remodeled Gateway Arch in St. Louis, prior to its big public opening on July 3.

2 minute read

June 7, 2018, 5:00 AM PDT

By James Brasuell @CasualBrasuell

Gateway Arch

Frank Romeo / Shutterstock

The Gateway Arch isn't just a monument to westward expansion—for many it’s a symbol of St. Louis. But in the past, according to a review by Blair Kamin, the monument has "seemed a little removed from the city around it."

For decades, a highway trench and a busy surface street cut off the Arch from nearby downtown. People walking to the Eero Saarinen-designed landmark had to cross narrow highway bridges as cars and trucks sped below. Other visitors would deposit their vehicles in a parking deck on the north side of the Arch’s grounds, take in the 630-foot-tall icon, then leave without ever setting foot downtown.

Kamin's assessment of the newly renovated grounds and museum of the arch will notice how much better the monument now connects to the city (another article by Doyle Murphy posits that the project is also emblematic of a city reconnecting with its river).

The most dramatic new element, a broad land bridge that spans Interstate Highway 44, creates a continuous public park that lets visitors walk uninterrupted from the domed Old Courthouse on one side of the highway to the Arch on the other. Once they cross, they encounter the museum’s new entrance, an elegant and inviting half-circle of metal and glass. New galleries that engagingly tell the story of the nation’s westward drive await below.

In addition to introducing some of the design history of the Gateway Arch, the review also discusses some of the attendance and revitalization benchmarks that will define the success of the project when it's fully reopened.

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