Museum at the Gateway Arch by Cooper Robertson, James Carpenter Design Associates, Haley Sharpe Design, and Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates: 2018 Best of Year Winner for Large Museum
Even those who’ve never visited the iconic arch recognize the 630-foot monument, designed by Eero Saarinen and erected with a stainless-steel skin in 1965. Less iconic, however, was the architect’s Museum of Westward Expansion, buried nearly 25 feet underground. Cooper Robertson partner Scott Newman gutted and reconfigured its “mazelike” spaces and refreshed the main hall with new flooring and lighting. Glass master James Carpenter of James Carpenter Design Associates crafted an aluminum-tube ceiling system that adds luminosity, particularly to the mezzanine, where a floor map of North America depicting West-bound pioneer trails rendered in terrazzo and stainless steel is by Haley Sharpe’s Bill Haley, who also designed the museum exhibits. The new entrance’s curve and stainless framing not only echo the arch outside but also open up the museum to views of the city’s historic courthouse—and natural light. “There are moments of the day,” Carpenter says, “when sunlight reaches all the way down to the bottom.”
Renovating and expanding the museum to 149,000 square feet was part of an overhaul of the entire 90-acre site, listed on the National Register of Historic Places, which decades ago was severed from the rest of the city by a major highway. Michael Van Valkenburgh and team remedied that by creating a bridge that extends the landscape over the highway and installing a pedestrian-friendly circular plaza at the new entrance.