In 2007, the Gateway Foundation proposed a partnership with the City of St. Louis to convert two adjacent lots, situated in the Gateway Mall between Eighth and Tenth Streets, into a sculpture garden. Upon approval, Warren Byrd, of the landscape architecture firm Nelson Byrd Woltz, was tasked with transforming the lots, once monotonous stretches of lawn, into an accessible and vibrant public space.
Completed in 2009, the approximately three-acre park achieves a sense of openness by forgoing entry gates or a perimeter fence or wall. Visitors are welcome to touch the many sculptures spread throughout the park and interact with the diverse water features. The western portion of the park includes a spray plaza composed of over 100 night-lit vertical jets, while the eastern section offers a rectilinear basin measuring 190 feet long, twenty feet wide, and sixteen inches deep. A 550-foot-long, arched wall of Missouri limestone splits the basin in two and is marked by a waterfall. These features, along with the broad stepping-stone-like slabs placed at the base of the cascade, reference the natural geomorphology of the nearby Mississippi and Missouri Rivers. A serpentine bench of polished granite traverses the southern length of the park, similarly recalling local riparian shapes. The surrounding region is also evoked through the chosen planting palette. Working with horticulturalists from the Missouri Botanical Garden, plants were chosen for native character, seasonal interest, and tolerance to drought, shade, and urban conditions. Among the numerous plantings, a prominent allée of fruitless ginkgo trees runs parallel to Market Street, offering both shade and framed views of the Gateway Arch. Twenty-five sculptures are spread throughout the park. Among the 23 artists represented are Niki de Saint Phalle, Mark di Suvero, Laura Ford, Keith Haring, Fernand Léger, Aristide Maillol, Igor Mitoraj, Tom Otterness, Martin Puryear and Tony Smith.