For any landscape architect, the invitation to design a major sculpture garden is a rare opportunity. Citygarden presented an even more remarkable circumstance - the chance to design an urban oasis that is a hybrid between a sculpture garden, a botanic garden and a city park.
From the outset we wanted to make Citygarden's design unique to St. Louis and its wider regional context. To accomplish this, our design inspiration draws from the great riverine landscapes of the area, and in particular acknowledges this three acre urban site's location just a few blocks west of the Mississippi River.
Our charge from the Gateway Foundation was clear from the beginning: help us make an inviting and inspiring public place for a variety of remarkable contemporary sculptures; create a diversity of spaces and experiences; make it a beautiful and engaging place year-round and, please, provide plenty of shade and water.
So our responsibility was to envision a design framework that could accommodate all of these elements and desires. The limestone bluffs and river meanders were abstracted into the two framing devices for Citygarden - the taller arc wall and the lower meander wall. And a closer analysis of the actual two block canvas revealed clues that allowed us to recall the sites' early twentieth century history. The parallel boundaries of the horticultural gardens along Market Street were inspired by actual property lines denoted on a 1916 Sanborn map. The bluestone walk that defines the central east-west path across Citygarden literally traces long lost alleyways - including an idiosyncratic jog at the eastern end. The birch-clad mound on the northwest corner of the site evokes an even more distant cultural history of Native American ceremonial mound - building that prevailed in St. Louis before its modern development.
Another regionally expressive component of Citygarden is its flora. Seventeen of the 18 tree species we selected are native to Missouri, as are most (but certainly not all) of the shrubs, perennials, groundcovers, grasses and wildflowers. Missouri Botanic Garden consulted with the design team on the choice of plants and will continue to advise on the maintenance of the garden.
Citygarden is perhaps unparalleled in its openness and accessibility. This gave the design team the freedom to innovate and create a distinctive environment that people of all ages and from all walks of life can enjoy for years to come. We are grateful to have been a part of this extraordinary project, and we hope you will experience Citygarden in all of its various guises as it continues to celebrate the intersection of art, natural process and community life.
If it performs as envisioned, the solidity of its design, the magic of its sculpture and the majesty of its plants will not be seen as individual achievements, but rather as the elements that seamlessly merge to create a memorable and lasting place in the evolving civic life of downtown St. Louis.
To learn more about the design and the landscape architecture of Citygarden, download The Design and/or The Landscape Architecture from the online press kit.