No, we in the Planning Group didn’t work on the new sculpture park, Citygarden, in downtown St Louis. It was designed by Nelson Byrd Woltz, a landscape architecture firm based in New York and Charlottesville, but I’m a big enough person to check out a non-HOK project (please don’t let me be struck by lightning) and even enjoy it immensely!
We got the opportunity to walk through the garden before it opened – most of the construction was just about wrapping up, the plants were going in, but the feeling of something different for downtown St. Louis was definitely in the air.
(Construction photos credit Derek Don)
The construction seems pretty impeccable. The walls are massive, with amazing materials. While walking through we joked that, although the garden seems incredibly successful, it would have been fun to just have this many stunning materials dumped in this space and see what locals could have done with all the goodies. St Louis seems to have the same mindset that many smaller cities with outstanding opportunities has – “maybe we need a big-name out of towner to do a high-profile project here.” I would, obviously, tend to argue that there is a ton of talent right here in town, but an out-of-town viewpoint is a welcome addition to our local ‘plaza scape’.
In downtown St Louis, as mentioned in previous posts, it can sometimes feel there isn’t that critical mass (of people OR constructed form) but this plaza, with its really dense plantings and overabundance of (mostly pretty good) public art, seems to be a welcome differentiation. It’s PACKED! both with peole and “stuff.” Being of the “lots of stuff is cool” school of garden-design, I’m all for it! Some people have complained it’s too “busy,” (and complained that other new plazas in town are too “empty”) I guess you just can’t win.
In my book, the completed plaza is a winner. Would I have done it exactly the same? No. But it’s a great space. A space that downtown St Louis really needed. It’s active, it’s attractive. Will it make downtown the booming metropolis it once was? No. But it’s a great garden, and it will make me a happy camper at lunch. Heck, it might even bring me down once and while on the weekends…
(completed garden photos credit Yang Zhang)