8.25.2010

Rating the STL Archground Competition on the BINARY Scale

1's and 0's. That's all that matters. When the rubber hits the road and a decision needs to be made - think like a computer and assess the binary scale. Besides, the AP scale, Letter Grading, and the old 1 - 10 can be so arbitrary and controversial. Is it a Go or No Go? Really that's all that matters. As Situation would say, you gonna smoosh that grenade or not?

So when the five finalists for the St. Louis Archgrounds competition were announced last week, it got me thinking. Why can't we apply the same "3am, I'm drunk and they just turned the lights on in the bar" logic? Because really you know there is going to be some "distinguished" panel at Wash U blowing hot air around about how this design is slightly better than that. Blah Blah Blah. In the end let's just ask one question. St. Louis, would you or wouldn't you? This is after all your legacy for the next 50 years. So don't go home with a grenade if there is a 10 lurking in the shadows. This week I'll review one scheme each day and give it a "1" or a "0". By week's end we should have a winner.

Starting in reverse order we have Weiss/Manfredi:






























My first impression: not too shabby. Beside some laughably inadequate aerial renderings, the boards look good and the vision both realistic/believable (they only have 5 years to finish) and exciting. The "Circle" idea is certainly not unique but I believe it a lot more here than I do in other schemes. Here are some quick thoughts:

1) Ferry Loop - A freaking home run. This idea is so much better than Benisch's gondola people mover. After all, we are on the Mississippi right and not in the Alps? I think tourists and locals alike would love to say they've sailed on the Mississippi even if it is only a wimpy loop. The ferry experience is still one that exists today and is a nice homage to the history of the river. 

2) Much will be made of the connection to downtown from the arch and rightfully so but I like the careful attention paid to the connections to Choteau's Landing and LaClede's Landing. Both will obviously be the places were increased land value will spur residential and mixed use development. Both house the sorts of amenities and connections that the new inhabitants of these areas will demand. I buy the "Cultural Canopy" ideal on the north side and I buy the more gritty "Activity Loops" that engage the heavy infrastructure on the South Side. 
3. The plan seems a bit one sided in that there isn't much cultural/entertainment programming on the Illinois side of the river. I hate to say it but even though the amphitheater is as cliched as it gets, I think Benisch had the right idea in putting it on the Illinois side. You really need a compelling reason/catalyst that will draw people across on the ferry and revamped bridges. I don't think a cultural/ecological center alone is going to do it. 

4. The Urban Bluffs, man. A Ballsy idea. In theory it seems to be appealing since it would acknowledge the flood condition of the river and allow access to the river's edge during that condition. The section below is great. It also is the staging point for the ferry experience. But boy would they have to engineer the hell out of it to make it work. Not to mention there would be massive maintenance costs from debris collecting on the bluffs. It could be a great idea or it could be a disaster. 

OK, with all that build up, it's getting late and we gotta decide yay or nay. Honestly, the Weiss Manfredi scheme is no grenade. It's not a landmine either. Just about a "Potato Sack" girl as El Pres would say

For that the verdict is 1.

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