Sometimes when we look at landmarks or monuments we don’t realize the countless hours of brainstorming and planning that went into their design. We may stand in awe for a few moments but the complexity of the engineering and science needed to construct them escapes us. Nearly fifty years ago construction started on the Gateway Arch, a 630-foot-tall, 17,246 ton monument to the westward expansion of the United States, situated on the west bank of the Mississippi River in St. Louis, Missouri. Being the scientists and life-long learners we are, our recent trip to NSTA:STEM in the arch’s hometown left us curious about its construction.
Commissioned by President Franklin D. Roosevelt, the design was chosen though an architectural competition for its timeless beauty and bold design. Lead architect Eero Saarinen and structural engineer Hannskarl Bandel represented the brilliance behind the massive construction. What appears to be a single, solid archway is actually a complex skeleton of triangular-shaped wedges that precisely fit together to create a smooth arch.