Faculty: Catalina Freixas
More than fifty years of population decline within the City of St. Louis has led to a building stock of more than 6,000 empty buildings. For the past decade, however, St. Louis has seen positive trends in downtown development. During this period, the city has experienced the largest percentage increase in college-educated 25-34-years-olds within three miles of the central business district of any US city; adding nearly 3,000 individuals Built in 1914 by architect Mauran, Russell & Crowell, The Railway Exchange Building (REB) was once the tallest building in St. Louis, and considered the largest structure of its kind in the country; its modern design is a fine example of the Chicago School Architecture style. For almost 90 years, it was the home of Macy’s, and previously the Famous-Barr flagship store and headquarters for the May Department Stores. For most St. Louisans, it is synonymous with beautiful storefronts, Christmas lights and the holiday train. On August 6th 2013, Macy’s shut down operations in the REB in downtown St. Louis. The department store was closed and their corporate offices relocated. Until recently, a tech start-up incubator claimed the upper floors, and the idea of a data center remains under discussion. For this studio, the SFS is collaborating with The Partnership for Downtown St. Louis in a call for innovative design ideas to reimagine the 21 story high-rise building, while re-invigorating the transformation of downtown. Students are asked to speculate on the future use for the 1,200,000 sqft. vacant space. The programmatic components might help define the use of the building and its connection to the context. The interface of contemporary design with a historical cultural monument will be part of the agenda. The neighborhood demographics changes suggest that a new way of development must be imagined, so spending is kept within the city’s boundaries. Visibility and access are key elements to take into account when selecting a site for retail development, requiring consideration of the immediate context of the site and the potential transformation in terms of establishing physical and visual connections. The final review will include partners from the Downtown Partnership and the owners of the REB. The studio will culminate in an exhibition of students’ work showcasing future development ideas for the building, and a book as a testimony of the projective analysis undertaken.
1 Ihnen, A., “As Downtown Macy’s Closes, Where will Retail find a Home in the City?, “ in NextSTL.com,