People enjoy the sunshine around the Kiener Plaza Visitor Services Center in downtown St. Louis.

Explore the Award-Winning Design of the Kiener Plaza Visitor Services Center

Monday December 5, 2022

By Rachel Huffman

With an award-winning design, which includes neon green fins on the south façade, the Kiener Plaza Visitor Services Center stands out in downtown St. Louis.

Local architecture firm Trivers designed the Kiener Plaza Visitor Services Center to build upon the playful nature of the renovated Kiener Plaza, which opened to the public in 2015. “To fit into the space, the design of the building needed to be artistic and fun, and it needed to have a lot of movement,” Amy Gilbertson, a principal and part owner of Trivers, says. “It needed to be functional, but it couldn’t be boring.”

Static fins placed at varying angles change the appearance of the building as visitors move throughout the site, and the breezeway offers covered access to the visitor kiosk while increasing visibility and activity from north to south. The center also has a living roof, making it environmentally friendly and aesthetically pleasing from above. A series of shallow trays on the roof have been planted with drought-tolerant succulents that reduce storm water runoff, absorb solar energy and provide extra insulation.

The Trivers team intentionally left some exterior walls blank, offering a canvas for rotating murals by local artists and reinforcing the building’s purpose as an extension of the community that it serves.

“With incredible views of the Gateway Arch and Old Courthouse, Kiener Plaza is one of downtown St. Louis’ most treasured and central gathering places,” Ryan McClure, executive director of the Gateway Arch Park Foundation, says. “The design of this new building perfectly complements Kiener Plaza’s recent renovations – its greenspaces, walking paths and other features – while enhancing the overall visitor experience.”

Trivers’ creativity and thoughtful design of the Kiener Plaza Visitor Services Center earned it an AIA St. Louis Design Award from the St. Louis Chapter of the American Institute of Architecture. The AIA St. Louis Design Awards recognize outstanding achievements in all areas of design, construction and craftmanship in the St. Louis region. To date, Trivers has earned 16 of the awards.

“We like projects that have a ripple effect,” Gilbertson says, “and the Kiener Plaza Visitor Services Center helped our clients [Gateway Arch Park Foundation and Great Rivers Greenway] achieve their mission to create additional infrastructure in Kiener Plaza in order to provide operational support and enhance the visitor experience. We also want our projects to spark more interest and new development in forgotten parts of town. At the heart of it, we pursue projects that have a positive impact on communities and organizations.”

After graduating from the University of Michigan, Gilbertson – who grew up in central Illinois – chose to settle in St. Louis over Chicago. “St. Louis gives creative professionals an easier entry into their field,” she says, “and I felt like I could have a greater impact as an architect here. So, we moved to St. Louis and stayed.”

Although the Kiener Plaza Visitor Services Center is one of Gilbertson’s most recent successes, most of her work involves historic buildings. “St. Louis has a rich history, and when we’re able to bring historic buildings back to life, it’s incredible.”

Stop by the Kiener Plaza Visitor Services Center with any and all questions about St. Louis’ world-class attractions, vibrant arts scene, exhilarating events and diverse – and delicious – restaurants, coffee shops, breweries and distilleries. You might also appreciate the improved, free public Wi-Fi available at the center.