Thursday, September 3, 2009

The skyscratcher

The famous architect Eero Saarinen was hired to build a part of the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial near the starting point of the Lewis and Clark Expedition in St. Louis MO.

Saarinen considered and rejected a monument, an obelisk and other constructions; he settled on a simple arch. But what is simple to the architect may not be so simple to the engineer.

If you look straight ahead in the image above, you can see the entrance to the Arch. Just inside, there is a security check that is almost identical to what you go through at an airport. Once inside, you can view a movie that shows how it was built. I won't go into all the details, but it's an engineering marvel.

The construction began in 1963 and took two and one-half years. It was opened to the public in July, 1967.

The planners estimated that 13 men would lose their lives during construction. Amazingly, even though the workers didn't use safety harnesses, and the hard hats were the old-fashioned type, no lives were lost.

The Gateway Arch is 630 feet high, and seems like it touches the sky. It's also 630 feet across at its base. You can find out more about this fascinating icon at

The view from the top: Busch Stadium (above) and the surrounding area can be seen from the observation deck.

Because the Arch is curved, a standard elevator wouldn't be possible. To get to the top, you have to ride a contraption which is part train car, part elevator and part amusement park ride -- they call it a tram. It's too weird to describe, and all I can say is don't take it if you're claustrophobic. If you don't mind the ride, however, the view is great. I'd love to return at night.


  1. Since I'm not only claustrophobic, I'm afraid of heights, as well, so I doubt I would ever see this in person. Thank you for being the daredevil and letting me see this through your lens. Now I don't have to! LOL

    Great shots, Mojo! Interesting post!

  2. I saw this while driving thru St. Louis once. It was amazing - even from a distance. But how on earth do you design a building with plans that 13 ppl will lose their lives building? Am I just naieve? Are those sorts of figures contained within every prospectus for a new building? WOW.. That was a shocker. And did the people who signed up to work on it, know about those "planned numbers"?

  3. The close-up of the top of the arch against the sky is absolutely stunning.

  4. Man, I so want to go up there!

    Really nice shots!

  5. I think I'll pass on going to the top...

    But that first photo is one of the nicest photos I've seen of the arch!

  6. @jusdealem, bastin, joxum: thanks!

    @diverjoules: They say 96 men died building Hoover Dam. Seems cold, but the movie said that 13 deaths were "budgeted."

    @Jacob: Thx for the complement. Most people shoot it straight on, but I wanted to do something different.

  7. I did go up the arch in that little car, and yes -- I am claustrophobic. It was horrifying!

  8. @lightning: one of my sisters looked a little green, but she had sibling pressure on her not to get sick or anything, lol.

  9. Nice photos!

    I spent a week in St. Louis many years ago and really loved it.