Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Word of the Day....Catenary

Jefferson National Expansion Memorial
Day 2...downtown St. Louis.  Toured the grounds of the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial, a.k.a. The Gateway Arch. This iconic cultural landscape is one of the most significant contemporary landscapes in the U.S. Landscape architect Dan Kiley (1912-2004), along with architect Eero Saarinen, submitted their design for a memorial design competition in 1947.

The building of the Arch was completed in 1965 while work on the landscape wasn't initiated until 1968. The phased work was finally completed in 1980.  Kiley, when brought back to the site in the late 90s, stated that his design was about the geometry that reflected the curve of the Arch. This arc, known as catenary, is formed by a flexible, uniformly dense cord or cable suspended from its endpoints and acted on by gravity. The designer's tree-lined walkways mirrored and reinforced this curve on the ground plane. Kiley, also known for his "his vigorous and creative" plant selections, specified tulip poplars, but the local nursery association raised a ruckus. They insisted the trees would not survive the urban environment, so a locally-cloned Rosehill Ash replaced the poplars on Kiley's planting plan. Ironically, these ash trees now in their height of glory will have to be replaced due to the Emerald Ash borer that is currently decimating this tree population throughout the Midwest. If the tulip poplars had been planted as Kiley specified, they would now be majestically displaying their full glory....and most likely would be standing for many years into the future.

Two professors, one lecturer, and 34 students of the Savanna Traveling Studio started out the day touring the grounds of the Gateway Arch in pouring rain. After an hour of both drizzle and downpour, the professors finally called it a morning and sent the students into the museum so they could get out of the rain.  Like good troopers, the students completed their watercolors, found some lunch, and returned to the hotel to change out of their wet clothes before heading out for the afternoon's assignment.  We all dreaded more time working in the wet weather, but magically, the rain stopped after lunch. The sun came out and it turned into a picture-perfect  day. The students completed their assigned work in Citygarden and headed out to enjoy the balmy evening.