St. Louis has tried everything to invigorate its urban core: Revitalizing its riverfront entertainment district, luring residents downtown with converted-warehouse lofts, a new baseball stadium. But maybe all they needed to do was plant a garden. Citygarden, a sculpture garden that unfurls like a rippling green carpet leading to the Gateway Arch has done more than just add a swatch of color to downtown. According to an article in the current issue of Metropolis, “the two-block sculpture garden has not onlytransformed the area but lifted the public’s sense of itself and itscity.”
Like the High Line, the abandoned railway that slices through a formerly-industrial area of Manhattan, St. Louis’s Citygarden is built on an unused plot of land which sat right out in the open, on one of downtown’s busiest streets. What was once known as the Gateway Mall was a strip of greenspace which was envisioned to run uninterrupted down the center of downtown, as the centerpiece of a grand double-boulevard that was part of the city’s 1907 plan. Economic decline prevented the vision from being realized. Also like the High Line, Citygarden was decades in the making–and only made possible thanks to dedicated and visionary citizens who saw the 1.1-mile long plot of land as a place for potential urban intervention.
The grounds–with their meandering paths meant to evoke the nearby Mississippi River and three fountains that burst out of the limestone pavers–were designed by Nelson Byrd Woltz Landscape Architects, who chose plants in collaboration with the Missouri Botanical Garden. Among the sculptures which dot the landscape are works by Tom Claassen, Keith Haring, Férnand Leger, and Julian Opie (whose “This Is Kiera and Julian Walking is above”). Already, the article reports, local residents of every ilk have swarmed the park, laying new claim to these two city blocks.
[All photos Steve Hall/Hedrich Blessing]