Eero Saarinen’s Gateway Arch had stood unlighted for over 35 years, when RBLD was commissioned to provide a design that would successfully reveal and celebrate the world renowned monument. It was an extreme technical and artistic challenge.
At the outset of the project, it was dictated by the National Park Service that this design illuminate the 630 feet high stainless steel monument with a lighting system that would be virtually invisible by day, responsive to the site’s archeological concerns, absent of reflected glare to surrounding highways, and sensitive to one of the nation’s busiest bird migratory flyways.
Out of 3 ½ years of design formulation, presentations, computer analysis, and full scale on-site mockups, an innovative short-arc xenon lighting system was determined to be the best solution. Using precision reflector optics and managing individual luminaire light distributions with lenses and automated louvers, a beautifully sculpted form was realized. All equipment was concealed below grade in four light “pits” covered by a custom designed, narrow-profile grating material. A laser detecting atmospheric monitor was incorporated into the control systems to provide automatic shut-off of the lighting during weather conducive to disorienting light scatter.