The St. Louis Gateway Arch was one of the worlds first looks at Eero Saarinen’s architecture. After beating out over 170 architects, including his father, in a design competition for the Jefferson National Memorial Expansion, Eero Saarinen brought his name into the architecture world as himself and not just his fathers son. The free standing arch was completed on October 28th, 1965 –5 years after Saarinen’s death– and at completion was 630 feet tall.
Eero Saarinen’s free standing arch design ended up being the winner of a architectural design competition for the expansion of Jefferson National Memorial. Winning the competition came with a tremdous amount of prestige and money –around $40,000 in 1940s, which was a lot of money. Saarinen competed against 172 other designs. “Other entries included a sculpture depicting the signing of the Louisiana Purchase, animal statues, a riverside restaurant, an airport, an underwater subway system, several bridges and pylons, multiple abstract sculptures, and an arrangement of sizable frameworks to display alternating exhibits.” Many of these designs were done by well established architects, including Eero’s father, Eilel Saarinen. Yet in the end, Eero beat out the competition.
The Gateway Arch took over 20 years to complete between design and completion, 1945-1965. The Arch would turn out to be 630 feet and made fully of steel, it was a huge to say in the least, and still remains to be the tallest free standing arch in the world. It was also an extreme undertaking and cost the city of St. Louis $13 million dollars at the time. A transportation system was also put in place where elevator cars would climb diagonally to the top of the curved arch, with the ability to carry up to 12 people at a time to the top. Even with a long timeline and large budget the monument seems to have been worth it the arch has become a part of American history as we know it today.
“The major concern …was to create a monument which would have lasting significance and would be a landmark of our time… Neither an obelisk nor a rectangular box nor a dome seemed right on this site or for this purpose. But here, at the edge of the Mississippi River, a great arch did seem right.”
The Arch features a catenary curve, something Eero Saarinen would use again when designing the main terminal for the Dulles International Airport and TWA Terminal at John F. Kennedy Airport.
The mathematical equation that lies behind the construction of the Gateway Arch.