Michael Van Valkenburgh

Pier Two Tidal Pool at Brooklyn Bridge Park. Photo by Alex MacLean, Landslides Aerial Photography.

Acclaimed landscape architect lectures Mar. 19

Posted by Liam Otten March 12, 2012

"The goal of our work is to create parks that are intrinsically urban—not places to escape from the city, but places to escape within the city."

So observes landscape architect Michael Van Valkenburgh, principal of Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates (MVVA), in a recent interview with the American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA).

It's an idea that informs many of MVVA's projects, from the recently opened Pier One in New York's Brooklyn Bridge Park to the firm's current proposals for the 91-acre park surrounding St. Louis' iconic Gateway Arch.

At 6:30p Monday, March 19, Van Valkenburgh will discuss MVVA's work as part of the Sam Fox School's spring Public Lecture Series. The talk is free and open to the public.

MVVA won the Arch grounds commission in fall 2010, following a 10-month architectural competition that drew 49 proposals from firms around the world. Organized by The CityArchRiver Foundation, the project is estimated to cost more than $500 million and to be largely constructed by Oct. 28, 2015—the 50th anniversary of the original completion of the Arch.

MVVA's design encompasses a number of strategies for better integrating both the Arch grounds and the Mississippi riverfront into the life of downtown St. Louis. Major elements include:
 
- Building a pedestrian land bridge over the depressed lanes of Interstate 70.
 
- Redeveloping Kiener Plaza as a link between the Arch, the Old Courthouse, and
    Citygarden.
 
- Expanding and adding a new glass-and-steel entrance to the Arch museum.
 
- Rebuilding Leonor K. Sullivan Boulevard, which runs alongside the Mississippi, as a
     cobblestone promenade.
 
- Slinging a gondola across the river to the Malcolm W. Martin Memorial Park on the
    Illinois bank.
 
- Restoring approximately 100 acres of wetlands in the Metro East.

In addition to his work with MVVA, Van Valkenburgh is currently the Charles Eliot Professor in Practice of Landscape Architecture at Harvard's Graduate School of Design, where he teaches landscape design as well as the use of plants as design material.

A fellow of the ASLA, Van Valkenburgh's numerous honors include the National Design Award in Environmental Design from the Smithsonian Institution’s Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum and the Arnold W. Brunner Memorial Prize in Architecture for contributions to the practice of architecture as an art.

In 2010, MVVA's design for Brooklyn Bridge Park was awarded the prestigious Brendan Gill Prize from the Municipal Art Society of New York, which recognizes works of art that best exemplify and contribute to the vibrant life of New York City.