Friday, December 15, 2006

Deck the Mall with Follies

Posted By on Fri, Dec 15, 2006 at 5:20 PM
It seems that ever since Eero Saarinen blessed our river town with the Gateway Arch by winning a competition, this city has never figured out exactly how to honor the beautiful monument -- or how to lure visitors to the structure into downtown. So we've mostly just left the Arch -- and the corridor that leads up to it -- alone. Now, thanks to a contest sponsored by the St. Louis chapter of the American Institute of Architects (AIA) and others, there's a plan to spruce up the Gateway Mall area along Market and Chestnut streets.

The St. Louis Follies Ideas Competition began soliciting entries at the end of July, and the contest closed November 30. The judges include Adam Whiton (from MIT's media arts & sciences program), Jasmin Aber (an R.A. architect and a research scholar at the University of California Berkeley), Rollin Stanley (executive director at the City of St. Louis Planning & Urban Design Agency; see Randall Roberts' RFT feature on him here), Richard Baron (of developer McCormack Baron Salazar), Carl Ray Miller (from the Art Institute of Chicago) and several Washington University staffers.

A folly is "an often extravagant picturesque building erected to suit a fanciful taste." Trust us, we looked it up.

But follies are best defined by example: The supercool Millennium Park in Chicago is chock-full of follies. Per the St. Louis contest's Web site, the entries solicited for the Gateway Mall are to be interactive structures that will serve as surfaces for multimedia projections. These works will be cutting-edge but will act in conjunction with, not in opposition to, the current surroundings (i.e. the Arch).

On December 9 and 10, the judges examined the proposals from local and national groups and selected the winners, whose designs will appear at various sites, roughly from the Kiel to the riverfront. The first-place idea was submitted by a St. Louis team: Stephanie Beamer, Crystal Ellis, Hillary Petrie and Tyler Survant. And the runner-up submission came from Demitrious Gourdoukis and Karina Tryfonidou of Clayton.

To learn about the winning folly designs, including those that tied for third place and the honorable mention, visit the Lammert Building at 911 Washington Avenue; an awards ceremony will be held there at 11 a.m. tomorrow, December 16.

-Alison Sieloff


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