Supported by the Gateway Arch Park Foundation and National Park Service, Cooper Robertson and James Carpenter Design Associates with Trivers Associates are seeing the completion of their design of the Museum at the Gateway Arch

New York, NY – March 5, 2018 – As part of Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates (MVVA) team that won the 2010 City+Arch+River international design competition, Cooper Robertson and James Carpenter Design Associates (JCDA) with Trivers Associates have designed the significant expansion and renovation of the Eero Saarinen-designed Museum of Westward Expansion, located directly below the iconic Gateway Arch. The museum improvements are one part of MVVA’s comprehensive expansion and renewal of the National Park’s Dan Kiley-designed 91-acre landscape with dramatically improved connections to downtown St. Louis.

The work of James Carpenter Design Associates (JCDA) has primarily focused upon the planning and design of the museum expansion’s new West Entry and public spaces. JCDA has applied its design approach founded on the experience of light in the built environment, to the entry sequence and the new main public spaces of the Museum Arrivals Hall which lead down to and connect with renewed exhibitions and the renovated Saarinen museum below the Arch. Beyond transforming, modernizing and improving the museum, the project goal was to better integrate the new and original museum within the National Park Service’s Jefferson National Expansion Memorial landscape and improve connectivity between the Park to the Old Courthouse and into downtown St. Louis.  JCDA and Cooper Robertson have created an iconic civic space that engages with and re-enforces the presence of the international icon of the Arch, while directly supporting the re-vitalization of downtown St. Louis. 

Since the inception of the Gateway Park, originally proposed in the early 1930’s but not executed until the 1960’s, the critical interconnectivity of the city to the Gateway Park and to the Mississippi River embankment has been missing. This has primarily been due to the divisive presence of Interstate 44, a six lane wide highway trench, cut in the landscape. A significant piece of MVVA’s new work has created a landscaped park over the highway that now links a sequence of parks into a unified thread of green space connecting from West to East: Washington Square Park, Poelker Park, Serra Sculpture Park, Citygarden, Kiener Plaza, the now restored Old Courthouse (site of the Dred Scott Case), Luther Ely Smith Park and to the now accessible Gateway Park and the banks of the Mississippi. Following this sequence of parks, when arriving at the Gateway Park, one now has the direct connection and visibility between the Old Courthouse, the new West Entry and the Arch as a seamless pedestrian experience.

“The new West Entry and Museum expansion is discretely incised into the landscape,” said James Carpenter, founder and principal of James Carpenter Design Associates, "This welcoming gesture is announced by an arc of glass laid flat on the ground, reflecting the image of the sky above, while the Arch itself, scribes an arc against the sky beyond.”

The semi-circular, glass enclosed entry volume mediates the transition into the below ground Museum Arrivals Hall, modulating the brightness from outside to inside. As visitors enter, the curved profile of the ceiling becomes immediately apparent, mirroring the presence of the landscape above while leading the eye down to the point of transition into the original museum. The ceiling’s distinctive undulating field of light heightens the awareness of this luminous volume as a powerful reflection of the Arch Grounds and sky framed by the Arch itself.

This clarity of circulation is always maintained through the new West Entry and Museum Arrivals Hall. At the moment of entry, you see down to the intermediate level mezzanine, an educational interpretive space, enlivened by a large scale floor map of the Mississippi River and its tributaries, illustrating the routes taken both by Lewis and Clarke as well as the tens of thousands of pioneers moving by wagons further to the west. Looking further down into the new expansion, one sees the beginning of the new exhibitions leading into the restored Saarinen Hall and the lifts that will take you to the top of the Arch. The main escalator circulation is ‘carved’ into both side walls of the new West Entry and they are flanked by open stairs which connect to the mezzanine and lower level. Beneath the mezzanine is an open glass education space for school groups or special functions.

From the exterior, the main axis of the entry is emphasized with both cantilevered and clear span open roof structures, which allow views down into the museum while behind you, the Old Courthouse, establishing an intimate visual link between the two landmarks. “This notion of the open central axis is essentially what the Arch itself presents,” said James Carpenter, “that all circulation symmetrically moves one towards or away from the implied ‘center’, whether you are moving through the landscape, the new West Entry, the new Museum Arrivals Hall or exiting from the base of either leg of the Arch. One meanders upon sinuous paths through the site, capturing changing views of the landscape above as well as enriching ones sense of the interior spaces and exhibitions below.”

The new West Entry, Museum Arrivals Hall and the transformed original museum are defined by a deep vocabulary of luminous materials and light. The museum’s new sense of spaciousness and generosity directly responds to and references the revitalized landscape of the Arch Grounds and its new engagement with the city, river and region, establishing a new place that engages hope for a positive and sustainable future.


About Gateway Arch Park Foundation

The Gateway Arch Park Foundation is a public-private partnership that includes the National Park Service, the Great Rivers Greenway District, the City of St. Louis, Bi-State Development Agency, the Jefferson National Parks Association and many other agencies and groups on both sides of the Mississippi River.

The Gateway Arch Park Foundation is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization with a mission to ensure that the Gateway Arch, its grounds, neighboring public space, and attractions will be a vital, welcoming, well-supported resource to the community and nation for generations to come. Founded in 2009 to support and coordinate a project to connect, invigorate and expand the Arch grounds, the Foundation is now a conservancy that will collaborate with partners to operate and maintain the improvements made through the CityArchRiver project, which is scheduled to be completed July 2018.

About James Carpenter Design Associates

James Carpenter Design Associates is an internationally recognized, award winning design firm founded in 1979. The firm is a cross-disciplinary practice working at the intersection of Architecture, Fine Arts and Engineering and is recognized for it’s innovative and distinctive approach to the use of natural light which serves as the foundation of its design philosophy. JCDA brings a deep technical knowledge and artistic sensibility to its building projects and planning for cultural and institutional clients, leveraging this expertise to exploit the aesthetic and performative aspects of natural light at a variety of scales.

Major projects include the Israel Museum’s expansion and renewal (2005-2011), an 18 acre campus in Jerusalem incorporating an outdoor sculpture garden (Isamu Noguchi), the Shrine of the Book (Frederick Kiesler) and the primary museum buildings. JCDA is currently undertaking the planning and design of the Bornholms Kunstmuseum and the Bornholms Museum (Art and Cultural History) on the island of Bornholm in Denmark.


About Cooper Robertson

Cooper Robertson practices award-winning architecture and urban design with both disciplines working together at a range of scales. As waterfront design experts, they have worked at the local, state, and national levels to plan for resilient place-making in the advent of climate change.

In founding the firm in 1979, Alexander Cooper, FAIA, ventured to provide the best service to clients and communities by pursuing excellence in design at both the urban and human scales. The underlying and unifying theme of their work continues to attest that architecture and urban design are critically interconnected disciplines that must be taken together to achieve lasting quality and value.


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