by Michael R. Allen
Rumors are circulating that the Danforth Foundation has arrived at a surprising plan for the Arch grounds: resurrect the 1970s Venturo House by Finnish architect Matti Suuronen by placing a line of one hundred of the houses on the western perimeter of the grounds. Apparently, the Foundation’s planners realized that without strong connections to a residential population, any plan to develop the grounds would fail. The Venturo House has appeal due to the shared nationality and similar last name of Suuronen and Arch architect Eero Saarinen. (In this vein, the Foundation could ask band Rilo Kiley to perform on Dan Kiley’s historic modernist landscape.)
If successful, city leaders have discussed the potential for building steel frames with elevators on several blocks of the Gateway Mall. Venturo homes could be hooked up to utilities that would run to each level of these towers. When a resident moved, that person could take their home with them and make way for a new resident.
Accompanying zoning and code changes would allow downtown building owners to place Venturo homes or similar modular homes on roofs — or adjacent surface parking lots. The changes would allow parking garages to be preserved and their historic architectural features left intact should they fall vacant. Venturo homes — arranged on special steel shims to adjust for the typical garage floor slope — will allow preservation-minded garage owners to avoid demolition.
If true, exciting news!