Saturday, August 7, 2010

Plaza done right..or is it?

Pretty spiffy urban plaza in front of the Old Post Office in downtown St Louis. Took this picture when I came through, on my way back from Chicago. The tower rising behind it on the left side is condos, and they are adding a restaurant to this plaza right now, apparently.

And let me just say, about those scrubby little trees adorning the edges, what a beautiful urban ecosystem! This plaza also maintains other resemblances to the SR improves sight lines for the condo tower, it also requires that you STEP UP onto it because of the vertical separation between the plaza and the street level at the edge. Very anti-pedestrian, anti-urban.

I think you'll notice that there are a total of 2 people (plus myself, so I guess three) in existence on the entire plaza. This picture was taken at 4 pm on a Friday afternoon, when I'm sure even BOk Plaza in downtown OKC is more "bustling" than this.

I will say that you could make a stronger case for the need for a plaza in St Louis than in OKC, too--corporate towers in St Louis do not typically come surrounded by a moat and drawbridge like that they do in OKC (or in other words, a corporate plaza). Aside from the new elongated 3-block long "Citygarden" (green park) in downtown St Louis, there is very little open space.

And this, my friends, is the best-planned plaza I've seen in a LONG time.


Ben Terrill said...

I live in St. Louis, and worked in the Old Post Office building for 5 years, and I can tell you this about that plaza: They have tried everything to bring pedestrians to that place and nothing has worked: concerts, movie nights, festivals. What you see is the reality 99% of the time. This, despite the fact that 10,000 people live within 6 blocks, 90,000 people work downtown, and there are 6,000 hotel rooms. Contrast that with the remarkable success of CityGarden, which I hope you saw, and which will hopefully translate for OKC into the new Central Park, and you can see why some of us hold out little hope for Sandridge's plaza.

Walker, Downtown Ranger said...

Wow, that's an awesome perspective. To be honest, the Old Post Office was one of my favorite buildings I saw in all of St Louis. I thought everything surrounding the plaza was absolutely stunning architectural beauty, and the plaza is a great place to take it all just isn't a natural collecting point, and downtown open space isn't the destination that myopic officials think it is.

I am kicking myself that I did not get to see the CityGarden. A friend of mine at Wash U gave me the pointers I went off of when I stopped through, and left off CityGarden. I knew of its construction because it was featured on but did not know it was finished--I walked up 4th/7th/whatever and couldn't find ANY other e/w street that compelled me to walk down. I missed it by 1 block. Wayfinding in downtown St Louis is horrible, especially around Wash Ave.

Beautiful city, though. I thought St Louis was a real gem of a city. At least in the south side and central corridor (despite that the two seem rather disconnected).

Ben Terrill said...

It kills me, with your obvious passion for urban spaces, that you did not get to CityGarden. Really is like a minature Millenium Park.
What you write about "natural collecting point" is on target. In downtown STL, mist action is a couple blocks north of OPO Plaza, and a couple of blocks south. It's a little bit of a dead space. Rather than attracting people, it repels them. If you have Washington, CityGarden,( and to a lesser extent Olive) that already bustle, you need to realize that reality. This is one thing I worry about with downtown OKC, too many "collecting points" (natural or otherwise) disperses the population and makes things seem deader than they even are. A downtown OKC's size certainly doesn't need more than one or two open spaces.