Text description provided by the architects. Built to commemorate the westward expansion of the United States, the Gateway Arch designed by Eero Saarinen became a futuristic marker that rose above the cityscape of St. Louis. In its design, this monument drew from previous symbolic constructs of similar aspiration, scale and mathematical precision.
The catenary, an ideal form that exists largely in compression, was the starting point for Saarinen’s design. Sweeping a triangular section of variable size along this curve was the basis for its form.
The mathmatical catenary was then distorted in order to increase aesthetic impact of the design while still maintaining its structural performitivity.
The gateway arch preseved the tradition of mathematical rigor and formal simplicity in the design of American monuments, that began with the Washington Monument in Washington, DC, while instilling a notion of contemporaneity in the material and programmatic complexity of the project.
The arch is comprised of steel-clad concrete triangular sections that vary from . It varies in thickness from 54ft (bottom), to 17ft (top). The steel plates are assembled very tightly against each other in order to increase its structral stability and also to increase its aesthetics—making it look even more slender than it is.
Programmatically, Saarinen wanted his arch to also act as an observation deck.
A complex system of elevator cars that climb diagonally to the top of the curved arch carry 12 people at a time to the top where visiters can view the surrounding landscape from 630 feet above the ground.
These elevator cars were designed as futuristic pods that were inspired by the similar aesthetics of the time.
In addition to the arch, the project sought to situate itself within a larger park of The Jefferson National Expansion Memorial.
The plan reframed the historic Old Courthouse as the park’s center under the apex of the new Gateway Arch. The pairing of the arch and the courthouse has become iconic of both the city of St. Louis and the greater region.