WTF Fun Fact 13647 – The Optical Illusion of the Gateway Arch

The Gateway Arch in St. Louis, a renowned symbol of America’s westward expansion, presents a fascinating optical illusion.

To many observers, this iconic structure appears to be taller than its width. However, the reality defies this visual trickery: the Arch measures precisely 630 feet both in height and width.

This illusion stems from the unique shape and viewing angles of the Arch, challenging our perceptions and adding to its allure.

Engineering Marvel Behind the Illusion

The construction of the Gateway Arch was an exercise of extreme precision. The two separate legs of the arch had to meet with an incredibly small margin for error – less than 1/64th of an inch. Any deviation from this would have prevented the arch from joining correctly.

The success in achieving this feat is a testament to the extraordinary skill of the welders and engineers involved in its construction.

Remarkably, despite the high-risk nature of the construction, not a single life was lost during the building of the Arch. This defies the initial predictions of the insurance company, which expected 13 fatalities due to the project’s complexity and the lack of safety nets for workers.

More Interesting Facts about The Gateway Arch

Another aspect of the Gateway Arch’s design that adds to its distinction is its unique tram system. This system, part elevator and part Ferris wheel was conceptualized by Dick Bowser, a man without formal engineering training. His innovative design solved the problem of transporting visitors to the top of the curved structure, something a traditional elevator could not achieve.

While security concerns generally prevent presidents from ascending the Arch, President Dwight D. Eisenhower was a notable exception. He insisted on riding the tram to the top during a visit in 1967, becoming the only president to have experienced the Gateway Arch from its highest point.

Maintaining an Icon

The Gateway Arch’s recent renovation is an extensive and costly endeavor. Costing over $380 million, this project involves the renovation of the surrounding park, expansion of the museum, and implementation of flood prevention measures. This cost notably exceeds the original construction cost of the arch, adjusted for inflation.

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Source: “8 Facts You Didn’t Know About St. Louis’s Gateway Arch” — Architectural Digest