Some consider the most formative date in San Antonio‘s history to be the fall of the Alamo, while others believe it’s the day the World’s Fair took over the city for six months in 1968. It was just a dusty city before more than 6.3 million attended the HemisFair ’68. A few of the original structures built for the fair still exist on the 92 acres in the heart of downtown, and many of them were left unused for decades. In 2009, the San Antonio City Council established the Hemisfair Park Area Redevelopment Corporation (HPARC) to revitalize a 37-acre new development, including a 4-acre park designed by MIG.

The project’s name, Yanaguana Garden, comes from a folktale told by the Payaya Native Americans of a blue panther that chases a bird through the night sky. A drop that fell from its wings left the blue hole that came to be the source of San Antonio’s river. This fable inspired the mosaic tile benches, panther sculpture, murals, and a blue paved pathway that represents the river, which snakes through the entire site.

Gustafson Guthrie Nichol's watercolor plan details the centrally located pergola that connects active and passive zones together.

Gustafson Guthrie Nichol’s watercolor plan details the centrally located pergola that connects active and passive zones together.
(Billy Hustace)

HPARC’s mission for Yanaguana Garden was to bring both children and adults to the city center. MIG focused on placemaking, designing a public space with courtyards, greenery, artwork, and playscapes. The park features a winding promenade, partly covered by a vine-draped pergola, which leads to the central square with giant checkerboard paving by Pavestone Company. The entire park is illuminated by Lumascape street light fixtures and lined with Victor Stanley benches. MIG also installed an outdoor theater with a dedicated seating area, play equipment by Landscape Structures, and a splash pad water fountain by Vortex Aquatic Structures.

In addition to the frolicsome furnishings, the landscape includes mature trees to provide shade. The saplings prevent soil run-off and help maintain proper irrigation year-round. This environmentally sustainable approach will also be applied by the organization to expand and improve the rest of what used to be the HemisFair World’s Fair Grounds.

Yanaguana Garden at HemisFair
The ’68 World’s Fair Grounds, San Antonio

Landscape Architect: MIG
Landscape Planting: Bender Wells Clark Design
Lighting: Lumascape
Playground Equipment: Landscape Structures, Corocord
Splash Pad Water Wall: Vortex Aquatic Structures
Custom Precast Spheres: Quickcrete Products Corp.
Benches: Victor Stanley
Paving: Pavestone Company
Mosaic Glass Artist: Oscar Alvarado

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