79 Views (of the Gate­way Arch) was an exhib­it I put togeth­er for Wash­ing­ton Uni­ver­si­ty in St. Louis in 2013

Since their ori­gins as a top-down plan­ning instru­ment in 1936, city of St. Louis’ 79 offi­cial neigh­bor­hoods have grad­u­al­ly devel­oped in form and char­ac­ter. The are accept­ed in many quar­ters as gospel; they are mar­ket­ed on posters and t‑shirts, trum­pet­ed by local real­tors, and enu­mer­at­ed by Wikipedia. Like the Gate­way Arch, they are a means of giv­ing strong iden­ti­ty to an often chaot­ic city. 

The sheer num­ber of neigh­bor­hoods giv­en for a mid-sized city can be seen to reflect, more con­cep­tu­al­ly than func­tion­al­ly, the larg­er habit in the region to pro­lif­er­ate geo­graph­ic and gov­ern­men­tal divi­sions, as chron­i­cled in E. Ter­rence Jones’ Frag­ment­ed by Design. The bound­aries and names that have been offi­cial­ly adopt­ed often do not match up with res­i­dents’ own ideas about the neigh­bor­hoods they live in – most noto­ri­ous­ly, the close-knit Dog­town neigh­bor­hood is nowhere to be found on the map. But the map may also serve as a prompt to induce curi­ous cit­i­zens to take a more thor­ough account of a city often expe­ri­enced as a series of famil­iar enclaves in a sea of unfa­mil­iar­i­ty, or fear. See the neigh­bor­hood pro­files at Mark Groth’s St. Louis City Talk blog for one lov­ing­ly detailed exam­ple. 

This project came togeth­er from a few things: fas­ci­na­tion with St. Louis’ unusu­al­ly pre­cise neigh­bor­hoods, affec­tion for Hokusai’s 36 views of Mt. Fuji (which tends to be eas­i­er to see, being 11,759 feet taller), and a desire to explore beyond the same 4 – 5 offi­cial neigh­bor­hoods I was famil­iar with. With help from L. Irene Com­padre, I went through the streets of each neigh­bor­hood until I found the actu­al Gate­way Arch or a rep­re­sen­ta­tion there­of, and took a pic­ture. I then print­ed each one as a post­card, in plain and anno­tat­ed versions.

Jeff Vanderlou
Jeff Vanderlou at Prairie Ave. and St. Louis Ave.
Columbus Square
Columbus Square at 6th St. and O'Fallon St.
St. Louis Hills
St. Louis Hills at Hampton Ave. and Neosho St.
Exhibit at the Sam Fox School at Washington University in St. Louis, November 2013.

(June 2016)