The Jefferson National Expansion Memorial in St. Louis, Missouri is the site of a modern icon – the Gateway Arch by Eero Saarinen – and a historic 91-acre landscape by Dan Kiley. Michael Van Valkenburg Associates (MVVA) won the City Arch River international design competition in 2010 with a visionary plan to revitalize the Arch grounds, the riverfront and portions of the neighboring downtown.
As part of this scope, MVVA led the redesign of Kiener Plaza, the city’s main public square that links the National Park Arch grounds with the Gateway Mall – the main public space downtown that includes Citygarden and Richard Serra’s public sculpture Twain. We were commissioned by MVVA to design signage for the revitalized Kiener Plaza.
MVVA’s work in public space and landscape is characteristically contemporary and timeless, understated yet equally graphic. The signage for Kiener Plaza maintains these same qualities by using a contemporary sans serif with distinctive characters that offset it from being a more standard grotesque typeface. To sit discreetly within the minimalist environment, signage is etched directly into surfaces and left plain or filled with color. Forms are constructed from stainless steel – the material used by the landscape architects throughout the Plaza and also for the Arch, which is prominently visible on the far end of the two-block Plaza. The system includes the attribution for “The Runner” – the sculpture that sits at the center of the main fountain; donor recognition for those who funded the revitalization; and playground signage. With play and public spaces, Kiener Plaza is a sophisticated yet informal gathering place for the city, a sensibility echoed in our design scheme.