Citygarden. — An Urban Oasis Blooms in St. Louis

Eros Bendato, by Polish-born sculptor Igor Mitoraj, is one of 24 modern and contemporary works by world-renowned sculptors at the new Citygarden in downtown St. Louis. The garden, which opens to the public tomorrow (July 1), also features a waterfall, one of the largest play fountains in the country, native trees and plantings, and a glass-pavilion cafe. Admission is free. The garden is a joint project of the City of St. Louis, which owns the land, and Gateway Foundation, a St. Louis non-profit which provided the funding. It's located a few blocks from the new Busch Stadium and within walking distance of it and the Gateway Arch. Photo by Stefan Hester.

ST. LOUIS--()--It has no real equivalent anywhere: a public garden with spectacular landscaping and internationally renowned modern and contemporary sculpture in a completely open, accessible downtown setting.

Citygarden, which was dedicated today, is an oasis in the City, a breathtaking civic space of multi-dimensional appeal — marrying art and nature, stone and water, architecture and design. It features fountains and pools, a waterfall, places to sit and even stretch out, and a café. No walls or fences surround it. Admission is free.

“This new garden is immediately taking its place among the great cultural attractions of St. Louis for residents and visitors alike,” St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay said. “It’s dazzling, and its complete openness in the heart of downtown makes it unique in the country.”

Slay was joined at the dedication ceremonies today by local and state government leaders. After brief speeches, the Mayor signaled to the garden’s control room to turn on of all three of the garden’s fountains.

Afterwards, the garden was opened to television cameras for the first time, and then to the public. A fence that has surrounded the garden since construction began, in April 2008, had been pulled down earlier in the morning.

The garden occupies the two blocks between Eighth and Tenth and Chestnut and Market Streets. The two blocks, which are owned by the City and cover 2.9 acres, are part of the Gateway Mall, a 19-square block spine of green space that stretches mostly uninterrupted for a little more than a mile from Broadway to 21st Street. The space is framed to the east by St. Louis’s world-renowned Gateway Arch and its historic Old Courthouse.

Slay expressed hope that the garden would serve as a catalyst for the development of the entire Gateway Mall and for all of downtown.

“I’m already hearing from CEOs about how much they love this garden,” he said. “With one stroke, Citygarden has made downtown far more attractive as a place to do business and as a place to live too — because downtown’s 12,000 residents suddenly have one of the coolest urban parks in the country in their backyard.”

The extraordinary quality of the garden, the Mayor said, “makes a statement about St. Louis. It tells the world, ‘We do great things in this City.’”

Slay said the extraordinary quality of the garden is also valuable in the standard it sets for the improvement of the rest of the Gateway Mall. “By setting the bar so high, it gives us reason to hope that the entire Gateway Mall will eventually fulfill the dreams that civic planners have had for it for the better part of a century. The Mall can be a wonderful, multi-faceted cultural and recreational space for our City and the region.”

The garden also will stimulate tourism, the Mayor said. Visitors to the Arch will be more inclined to cross Memorial Drive into downtown, and St. Louis’s place on the art map will be enhanced for art lovers all over the world.

The City of St. Louis and Gateway Foundation announced in June, 2007 that they would partner in creating the garden. The City owns the garden improvements and will continue to own the land. Its only expenses will be for water and electricity. The not-for-profit Gateway Foundation is providing the funding — an estimated $25-$30 million, covering design and construction and front-end “soft costs” such as financing, anticipated expenses for security and insurance, etc. The cost of the sculpture, which is and will remain owned by the foundation, is separate. Going forward, Gateway Foundation will pay for all costs of Citygarden except water and electricity.

The garden is intended for everyone — downtown workers and residents, St. Louisans from all parts of the metropolitan area, and visitors from around the country and the world. It is aimed at people with and without backgrounds in art, at adults, and at children. Among its major features are:

  • Three fountains and pools.
    • A 180-foot rectangular basin with a six-foot waterfall at its mid-point between Eighth and Ninth streets near Chestnut.
    • A state-of-the-art spray plaza — with 102 computer-controlled spray jets and custom lighting — between Ninth and 10th streets near Market.
    • A 34-foot-diameter tilted granite disc partly covered by a scrim of water near the corner of 8th and Market.
  • A café, the Terrace View, with indoor and outdoor seating along Chestnut Street, overlooking the garden. Jim Fiala, owner of three fine St. Louis area restaurants, will open the café in a matter of days, offering lunch and dinner Monday through Saturday.
  • Twenty kinds of trees, including shade and flowering species, as well as shrubs, exotic plants and lush flowers. The Missouri Botanical Garden was consulted on the selection of the plantings, most of which are native to Missouri, and will be consulted on their maintenance.
  • Twenty-four pieces of large-scale modern and contemporary sculpture by nationally and internationally renowned artists. The sculptures show tremendous breadth — ranging from whimsical, tongue-in-cheek, and fun to somber and mysterious; from elegant, lyrical, and sensuous to geometrical and edgy and surprising; from figurative and classical to abstract. But two attributes apply to every one of the 24 pieces: extraordinary quality, and an intention of stimulating a relationship with the viewer. Like Citygarden itself, the sculpture is meant to engage.
  • An audio tour, accessible by cell phone and the Internet, featuring the recorded voices of prominent St. Louisans such as Ozzie Smith, Jenna Fischer, Mayor Slay, and Joe Buck.
  • A stunning eight-foot- tall limestone wall, evoking the limestone bluffs of the rivers that mark the St. Louis area, in the shape of an arc, running along the entire length of the garden’s north side.
  • A meandering 18-inch-tall polished granite-capped wall, evoking a serpentine river, along the garden’s southern border. This wall offers seating and breaks the space into multiple smaller parts, or “rooms,” offering more intimacy and visual interest while showcasing flowers, shrubs, and works of sculpture.
  • A double-row of gingko trees along both blocks on the Market Street side. The City intends later to extend the tree promenade to help knit together the entire Gateway Mall, for which master planning is now complete.
  • A state-of-the-art LED video wall displaying video art and movies.

Ground for the garden was broken in April, 2008, at a rain-soaked ceremony attended by several of those who were instrumental in its creation: Mayor Slay; the Mayor’s Executive Director for Development, Barbara Geisman; Seventh Ward Alderman Phyllis Young; and Warren Byrd, principal of Nelson Byrd Woltz Landscape Architects, the Charlottesville, Va.-based landscape architectural firm that prepared the plan for the garden. Ten St. Louis-based firms supported Nelson Byrd Woltz in the design process, including Studio Durham Architects, which designed the cafe. BSI Constructors served as the general contractor.

Gateway Foundation has contributed significantly in recent years to the revitalization of downtown’s urban landscape, with projects ranging from the funding of the Gateway Mall master plan to the lighting of the Gateway Arch, Old Courthouse, Civil Courts building, and the city’s historic water towers. Other projects have ranged from the development of Triangle Park at Clark and 14th Streets to the restoration and construction of playgrounds and to the placement around the community of more than two dozen pieces of public art.

Photos/Multimedia Gallery Available:


for Citygarden
Paul Wagman, 314-982-1726
Ed Rhode, 314-622-3201


for Citygarden
Paul Wagman, 314-982-1726
Ed Rhode, 314-622-3201