Before I started working at Inmod, I had no idea who Eero Saarinen was. Saying that’s changed is a bit of an understatement! Modern furniture fans know about his famous Egg Chair, but did you know that Saarinen was primarily an architect? Doubtless, one of his most famous structures is the Gateway Arch in St. Louis, Missouri, although I’m betting most people aren’t aware that he designed it. The Arch’s shape is based on a weighted or flattened catenary arch. What’s a catenary arch, you ask? Think of a chain or cable hanging loosely, held only at the ends and supporting only its own weight – then invert it. It also recalls the shape of a furiously spinning jump rope, at least in my mind.
The Gateway Arch serves as the centerpiece for the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial, a monument to the Louisiana Purchase and the westward expansion of the United States. The idea was first conceived in the darkest days of the Great Depression, as a way to revitalize the St. Louis waterfront and stimulate the economy. It took many years to realize, but in 1947, Saarinen’s design was selected from hundreds of competition entrants. His father was among those whose designs were not chosen (imagine that awkward family moment).
Alas, Saarinen did not live to see the Arch completed, or even started. He passed away on September 1, 1961, and construction began on February 12, 1963. The entire 62 acre monument, comprised of gardens and other buildings as well as the Gateway Arch, opened to the public on June 10, 1967. Naturally, opinion was divided over this profoundly modern monument, with lovers and haters of the design squaring off into opposing camps. However, I would say that Saarinen’s design has aged gracefully, providing the city of St. Louis with a powerful and beautiful symbolic focal point. What do you think of Saarinen’s design? Have you ever seen it in person?
Here are a few facts about the Gateway arch:
It is 630 feet high, and 630 feet wide (measuring from outer leg to outer leg)
It is made entirely of steel, stainless steel, and concrete.
It is the tallest man-made monument in the US, beating out the Washington Monument in DC by 75 feet, and the Statue of Liberty by an astounding 325 feet.
If you’d like more infomation on the history of this structure, click here.