79 Views

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
Exhibit at the Sam Fox School at Washington University in St. Louis, November 2013.

(June 2016)