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Missouri—St. Louis—Government Hill

The existing landscape [Government Hill], designed by noted local landscape architect George Kessler around 1911, is a stunning example of the "City Beautiful" era of Beaux-Arts formalism. Some of the landscape designs from that period have not held up well as gathering places, due to aesthetic programs that look better than they function. Not so with Kessler's Government Hill design, which seems to get more popular as time goes by. His grand staircases, central fountain and terraces amid sloping hills create an inviting context with a scale that is respectful of both the World's Fair Pavilion and the users of Forest Park.

The only flaws in this landscape are the lack of universal accessibility and the lack of maintenance. The new proposal seems to take a good step in addressing accessibility without intruding on the existing landscape. The plan unveiled in June was little more than a giant zigzag ramp, based on intriguing medieval designs but totally inappropriate for the site. In terms of restoration, it seems that the new plan is more sensitive to the Kessler design but still aiming to remake it according to modern designs.

That's where the first plan for rebuilding Government Hill is better; if something new is going to happen, it should be complementary to the landscape of the park and a compelling and original design in itself. The proposal being considered today is not compelling or original, but the Kessler design even in its decay remains so.

Statement on Government Hill by Michael R. Allen, Posted August 2, 2006