The city, the river and the arch

St. Louis, MO, USA

The RIVERCIRCLE urban landscape concept proposes a durable framework for the evolution of the Arch grounds within the larger milieu of St. Louis and East St. Louis addressing the many current stakeholder interests on both sides of the river. The design strategy of the Great Rivers Expo and the RIVERCIRCLE will provide the physical framework for visitors to experience the many new and diverse places and events.
To achieve this goal we will make sure that all planning and design proposals emerging out of our RIVERCIRCLE concept will be based on the close relationship between people’s natural use of public spaces and the physical character and form of the built environment while embracing the unique qualities of the local context on both sides of the Mississippi River. RIVERCIRCLE shall open up, invite and include people, provide different activities and possibilities and thereby ensure multiplicity and diversity.

In many cases there has been a reluctance to abandon the cultural capital embodied in historic centers. This has been abundantly true in St Louis, despite many dire warnings since 1947 that the central city was obsolete, doomed, and best left to ”lie fallow” for generations. Although the river travel and rail based reasons for the centrality of this downtown have long since been superseded by the easy availability of vehicular transportation, the river-centered city’s cultural significance in the region has not diminished. Activating St. Louis’ river-based downtown in a way that we now identify with urban life; with pedestrian vitality, a wide range of activities, and extensive access to natural areas along the riverfront itself is one of our key missions.

Our proposed new design narrative suggests a reconceived understanding of “monumentality,” in urban, architectural, and landscape architectural terms. We propose RIVERCIRCLE for the continental center, organized but not bounded by the flow of the great Mississippi River, and encircled around and across it by an aggregate of well-scaled, highly accessible, distinctive public places, parks, promenades, performance stages, resource centers and recreation fields. The River runs through it all – and is thereby granted status as more than an economic or industrial resource, but as a carrier of American culture, in both real and metaphorical ways. As an organizing concept, this encircling sequence of public activities, is captured by the compound noun RIVERCIRCLE.



St. Louis, MO, USA


Behnisch Architekten, Los Angeles Gehl Architects