MELISSA BLOCK, host:
This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Melissa Block.
ROBERT SIEGEL, host:
I'm Robert Siegel.
And we now mark the 40th anniversary of the completion of one of America's structural marvels.
Ms. MARY ANN LAZARUS (Architect, HOK): Worldwide the arch is considered one of the most beautiful pieces of sculpture-slash-building and certainly is one of the stops that you have to make if you're an architect from anywhere in the world.
SIEGEL: That's Mary Ann Lazarus at the HOK architectural firm in St. Louis, and she is talking about the St. Louis Gateway Arch.
BLOCK: The arch symbolizes the city's status as a gateway to the West. It stands on the banks of the Mississippi river, rising 630 feet above the ground. It's also 630 feet wide at its base. It's made of shiny stainless steel, and its legs turn into perfect equilateral triangles which are rooted deep into the ground.
SIEGEL: The arch was designed by Eero Saarinen, who won a nationwide competition for his design. It took about two and a half years and $15 million to build. It was completed on October 28, 1965.
BLOCK: The arch can sway up to 18 inches in 150-mile-an-hour winds, and its designers say it can withstand an earthquake. St. Louis is right on the New Madrid Fault Line, after all.
SIEGEL: Architect Mary Ann Lazarus says she tries to get a close-up view of the arch almost every day, and she says architects are amazed by the structure's simple form. It's a nearly perfect inverted catenary arch, which is the kind of arch you'd get if you took a necklace or a chain and held it at each end.
Ms. LAZARUS: So it's a very pure form and it's one that Saarinen used not only because I think it creates peace and equilibrium, but also because it really is a very good use of materials because of the natural forces that are acting on it. It's a way to be very efficient in creating this very pure, simple form.
BLOCK: That's Mary Ann Lazarus of the HOK architectural firm, talking about the St. Louis Gateway Arch, which as of today has towered over the city's skyline for 40 years.
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