GSD Professor's Firm To Redesign Area Around Gateway Arch

The Gateway Arch in St. Louis, Mo. will soon be getting an update courtesy of a team led by Harvard Graduate School of Design Professor Michael R. Van Valkenburgh.

Van Valkenburgh’s landscape architecture firm, Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates, was selected from a pool of 49 international architecture firms to redesign the area around the Arch—also known as the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial—as part of a five-year plan to renew the monument’s surroundings and connect St. Louis to East St. Louis, which is on the other side of the Mississippi River in Ill.

Van Valkenburgh’s firm tackled the challenge of connecting St. Louis with East St. Louis across the Mississippi River while retaining the arch’s character.

Van Valkenburgh said his team’s ideas for the area include stretching the arch, incorporating an aviary, and creating an elevated garden with a plant-lined walkway.

Jury member and Smithsonian curator Cara McCarty called Van Valkenburgh’s proposal “refined and intelligent.” The design was chosen over four other bids in the final round.

“It was not just a park, it was an urban solution,” McCarty said.

Valkenburgh, a “professor in practice” in the School of Design’s department of landscape architecture, said he is excited to begin implementing his team’s new design. He added that he feels the project will help advance the agendas of natural parks in the United States.

“This [project] deals with gnarly problems...the issues of our times,” Valkenburgh said.

His firm, which has offices in both Brooklyn and in Cambridge, advertises itself as a leader in the new “ecological-urban paradigm” and has been selected for over 350 international architecture projects, including the redesign of Pennsylvania Avenue at the White House and restoration of Harvard Yard.

He said his latest project could serve as an example of how eco-urbanism can transform cities.

“It’s an amazing honor,” he said. “I can only imagine it will be the project of my lifetime.”

This article has been revised to reflect the following corrections:

CORRECTION: September 28, 2010

An earlier version of the Sept. 28 news article "GSD Professor's Firm To Redesign Area Around Gateway Arch" incorrectly called Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates a construction firm. In fact, it is a landscape architecture firm.