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Alamo City

San Antonio’s architecture has a bright future illuminated by a rich heritage
When it comes to notable architecture in Texas, it would seem strange to place San Antonio on par with Houston or Dallas. As the second-largest city in the state, San Antonio seems to only mimic the kind of architectural largesse seen in those cities. There are plenty of jewel-like late modern skyscrapers and austere civic buildings by Skidmore, Owings and Merrill, Caudill Rowlett Scott, and Marmon Mok in the city, but these are not the kinds of projects one would mention in the same breath as Houston landmarks like Johnson/Burgee’s Pennzoil Place and Williams Tower, Renzo Piano’s sublime Menil Collection, or Fort Worth's iconic Kimbell Art Museum by Louis Kahn. A selective itinerary of San Antonio’s past and future architectural projects reveals a steady commitment to buildings with bold, expressive forms that reference the city’s unique environment, history, and culture. Alamo City warmed up to these compelling architectural additions as it expanded during the late 1940s and early ’50s, and became a home to energy and utility companies during the 1970s and ’80s. Funded by philanthropic organizations and influxes of oil cash, many of these buildings are now hidden by giant, swooping highway overpasses, corporate plazas, and other developer-driven projects. Despite the earlier innovative and controversial projects, San Antonio remains overlooked. This will soon change. Newly appointed mayor Ronald Nirenberg has re-energized discussions about creating new housing, battling gentrification, and committing to more public art. This will certainly place a spotlight on San Antonio’s rich architectural offerings while reminding us of how these and other past projects have embodied this city’s distinctive topography, Latino heritage, and dry, arid environment. Emilio Ambasz’s Lucile Halsell Conservatory, completed in 1988 at the San Antonio Botanical Gardens, is a good starting point. Located on the city’s northeast side, Ambasz’s scheme took advantage of the sunken site with a series of prismlike canopies that appear to rise out of the bermed earth like upturned shards of glass. Each canopy creates its own kind of climate and features particular plant ecologies—architecture designed, as Paul Goldberger observed in 1987, for the interaction between plants and humans. The project is notable for its combination of building, landscape, and infrastructure into a seamless whole. The Lucile Halsell Conservatory accommodated some very particular environmental and topographical conditions, and did so with a formal and technological expressiveness unlike anything that had been built in San Antonio. Mexican architect Ricardo Legorreta’s San Antonio Central Library, completed in 1995, continues in this vein. Here, cubic volumes are stacked at various angles, creating a series of triangular-shaped courtyards intended to be outdoor reading rooms. Legorreta’s debt to Mexican architect Luis Barragán’s minimalist polychromy is clear. Working with the painter Mathias Goéritz, Barragán created spaces framed by walls and surfaces doused in highly saturated reds, blues, yellows, oranges, magentas, and pinks. At his Central Library, Legorreta appears to invert Barragán with a simple, playful interplay of volumes that seem to be wrought from its own color palette as well. The reddish-brown colored cubes appear gutted in some places, revealing inner planes of yellow, blue, and purple. When viewed from the air, the Central Library appears otherworldly, framing circular plazas made from grass and limestone and located on a triangular-shaped site near the geographical center of the city, as if something from another time had arrived here. That a Mexican architect was chosen for this project is important. As the seventh-largest city in the United States, San Antonio has one of the biggest Spanish-speaking populations. Over 62 percent of its residents are of Latino origin. The appeal of Legorreta’s Central Library stemmed as much from the need for more public libraries as it did from the desire to reflect the city’s heritage. Though this was the first building in San Antonio designed specifically to reflect the city’s Mexican-American heritage, there are older buildings that expressed the cultural richness so important to the city. The Alamo and the four Spanish Missions (recently designated as UNESCO World Heritage Sites) all combine Spanish and Catholic influences while referring to the rituals and structures of indigenous peoples. This is to say that San Antonio’s architecture continues to find a way to embody its venerable cultural geography. It also incorporates its distinct environmental geography. San Antonio is a city hewn from mesquite-dappled hills, limestone quarries, and deep-set aquifers. Lake|Flato continues to be the standard-bearer among the city’s firms for a kind of tectonic and environmental sensitivity that is immediately recognizable for its ingenious references to these conditions. Imagine a version of John Lautner’s spacious geometric forms where large cornices made from corrugated metal peer over meticulous compositions of glass, limestone, slats, and brise-soleil made from local woods, all culminating in views that privilege the rolling, arid mesquite and persimmon landscapes of the Texas Hill Country. This would not do justice to Lake|Flato’s work, but perhaps it is as close as we can get to a kind of South Texas regionalism. Yet some of Lake|Flato’s current work points to something altogether different. Their recently completed pavilion at Confluence Park designed in collaboration with Matsys connects the joining of the San Antonio River and San Pedro Creek, to nearby Mission Concepción, an 18th-century basilica. This is a highly-charged site in predominantly Spanish-speaking South San Antonio. The most visually arresting parts of Lake|Flato’s project are the concrete “petals” that reference the local flora while reminding the most architecturally astute observer of Spanish-born Mexican engineer Felix Candela’s sweeping hyperboloid structures, like Los Manantiales Restaurant (1958) in Mexico City’s Xochimilco Park, or the Chapel Lomas de Cuernavaca (also 1958) in Cuernavaca. Confluence Park is also part of the larger San Pedro Creek Cultural Park. This scheme is projected to transform a once-neglected 2.2-mile-long drainage spur into a cultural attraction with water features, public art, and areas dedicated to the preservation of local grasses and wildlife. In a nod to its aspirations, lead architect Henry R. Muñoz and others have embraced this project’s more common nickname—the “Latino High Line”—which may say more about Diller Scofidio + Renfro/Field Operation’s celebrated scheme than the actual goal of the project, which is to create a version of the Riverwalk devoid of its tourist traffic while celebrating Latino heritage. Urban designers are finding new ways to move San Antonio forward while referring to curious artifacts from the history of American cities. Architect Antonio Petrov, who teaches at the University of Texas at San Antonio and is the founder of Urban Future Lab, is one of the most outspoken voices when it comes to redevelopment in the city. He is a proponent of bringing back skyrides, which were already used during HemisFair ’68 as a means of connecting the city’s downtown with San Antonio International Airport. Petrov’s proposal, though evocative of pie-in-the-sky urban transportation schemes, is to be taken seriously. Similar proposals were actually in use at the 1932 Century of Progress Exhibition in Chicago as well as in Disneyland and Disney World (which were, in a sense, attempts to envision cities of the future.) Other schemes, though funded by corporate dollars and serious placemaking advocacy firms, are barely more pragmatic in their approach. A case in point is the proposed Alamo Plaza Redevelopment. Philadelphia-based Preservation Design Partnership authored one of the first master plans, a scheme that caused controversy when it called for relocating many of the businesses surrounding the Alamo and converting them to privately run cultural attractions. Current versions of the plan have done little to improve on the previous proposal. For example, the recent Alamo Comprehensive Interpretive Plan—spearheaded by St. Louis–based “placemaking” firm Peckham Guyton Albers & Viets; the heritage consulting firm Cultural Innovations; and landscape architects Reed Hilderbrand—still hinges on the creation of a pedestrian-friendly “Alamo District” designed to turn this historically charged site into an open-air museum. A previous scheme took this idea a step further by encircling the Alamo with a glass wall, as if preserving this architectural artifact in a kind of amber. There are plenty of other projects that are reenergizing the architectural scene in San Antonio. The city is in a bit of a gut-rehab frenzy, as landmarks like the Pearl and Lone Star Breweries have been renovated as pricey hotels and higher-end restaurants, all with the end goal of molding San Antonio into a destination for design-savvy millennials with money to burn, in hopes they will ditch an Airbnb in the picturesque King William District in favor of the Hotel Emma’s posh industrial-chic. It is in this milieu that Adjaye Associates’ Ruby City arrives as one of the most exciting projects to break ground in the Alamo City. This 14,000-square-foot gallery and contemporary arts center—scheduled to open later this year near the city’s burgeoning arts district—appears as a strange hybrid, part OMA Casa da Musica, part Legorreta Central Library. Adjaye’s building appears as a literal jewel, a faceted brick-red form whose speckled, punctured surfaces make it seem fleeting and otherworldly. But it is anything but that, for this building, which sits precariously on the edge of the one-acre CHRISpark in downtown San Antonio, will anchor the San Pedro Creek redevelopment scheme, and provide the Linda Pace Foundation’s extensive collection of modern and contemporary art with a bold, exciting home. Adjaye is still earning accolades for his groundbreaking National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, D.C., and with Ruby City soon to be completed, this will be the most significant architectural gesture for San Antonio—one that will hopefully inspire an influx of more commissions and projects of a similar caliber. How should we look at San Antonio’s architectural legacies and gestures? It is tempting to stack them up against those in Houston or Dallas, but in doing so, we would risk ignoring how one of the fastest-growing cities in the United States is busy generating its own architectural identity. Don’t call it haphazard, however. The pace of architectural developments in San Antonio may appear slow, but like the city, its architecture is humming busily from what once was an undetectable purr to something greater. This sleepy South Texas city is anything but, and its architecture will demonstrate how this is the case.
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Grapefruit-Chic

David Adjaye realizes a ruby-red museum in San Antonio, Texas
In 2007 the late artist and philanthropist Linda Pace—of Pace jarred salsa fame—had a vision of a ruby-tinted arts city come to her in a dream. The city, as Pace dreamed it, would become a rough outline for the 14,000-square-foot Adjaye Associates–designed museum complex that will house her foundation’s art collection in San Antonio. Pace passed away in 2007; more than ten years later, her vision is being brought to life bit by bit, an endeavor that is currently in full swing ahead of the building’s projected 2019 opening date. The $16 million dream is being translated into reality by architect David Adjaye and an international network of local architects, contractors, and fabricators who have made plans for a precast concrete panel citadel situated on the Texas plain. There, folded concrete surfaces and expanses of brut walls will house the 800 or so artworks collected by Pace and her namesake foundation. The pink complex is built out of a special concrete and aggregate mix crafted by fabricators across the border in Mexico that will result in a gleaming, rosy edifice. As explained by Mike McGlone, principal at Alamo Architects, the executive architect for the project, most colored concrete starts out in either gray, beige, or white tones, with pigments added incrementally to tint the mixture to the desired color. But ruby red pigment is a particularly difficult hue to achieve. For one, pigment can only be added little by little, resulting in a blended appearance that can appear muddled when combined with cement’s natural coloring. The process is made more difficult by the inherent structural requirements of the materials involved—the more pigment is added, the less resilient the final product—so while Pace’s dream called for a vibrant, beet juice–colored edifice, tests using traditional methods yielded less spectacular results. That was the case until designers began looking south of the border, where concrete fabricators Pretecsa can produce concrete panels made with red rock aggregate and red sand taken from local quarries. There, instead of starting with beige or gray bases, the fabricators begin with white concrete and add colored materials and tints to change the hue of the mix from inside-out. The fabricators include materials such as recycled red glass and mica in the mix to boost coloration, while also creating a glittering finished surface that will reflect sunlight throughout the day. Adjaye’s designs call for a collection of open galleries topped by a pair of sculptural light cannons that will bring light into the building. The complex will make use of several different concrete panel types, including rough surfaces that will line the upper sections of the building to better reflect the sun. Lower sections will be smooth to the touch, with a three-sided forecourt wrapping a sculpture terrace that features sandblasted surfaces. The folded concrete panel structure will also use cementitious panels along its roof, a system that will be supported below by a secondary weather-proof roofing system located directly below the outermost concrete layer. The complex is expected to be completed in late 2018 and will open to the public in 2019.
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Petal Power

Sculptural concrete canopies cool a San Antonio public park
As implied by its name, Confluence Park overlooks the meeting of San Pedro Creek and the San Antonio River in San Antonio, Texas. Located about three miles south of downtown, the park acts as a gateway for the historic Mission Reach section of the San Antonio River. The $13.7 million project includes an education center and extensive landscaping that illustrates the diverse biomes of Texas. But what most visitors will remember about the 3.5-acre park are the nearly 30-foot-tall concrete petals that emerge from the ground to form a sprawling overhead canopy. Twenty-two of these sculptural panels are clustered together to form a single, large, open-air pavilion. Another six are paired together to form three smaller gathering areas. In addition to providing relief from the South Texas sun, these panels are shaped so that when it rains, they channel water into an integrated system of rainwater collection, filtration, and dispersal. All of this reinforces the stated mission of the park, which is to act as a destination for recreation while teaching important lessons about environmental science and sustainability. To that end, the design team sought to create a composition of architectural and landscape elements that used the same kind of logic found in nature. Ball-Nogues Studio, a Los Angeles–based design practice, established the park’s conceptual master plan. From there, the design was developed in close collaboration with the landscape architect Rialto Studio, Lake|Flato Architects, and Matsys, a San Francisco–based design practice that specializes in the development of new approaches to architectural design and fabrication. That particular skill set was critical in the development of the park’s concrete. Given the structural gymnastics involved, the project’s structural engineer, Architectural Engineers Collaborative (AEC), became an integral part of the design team as well. Although petals of steel, fabric, and wood were all considered during the design process, concrete was ultimately selected for its durability and permanence. Even though the majority of funding for the project came from private donations, Confluence Park functions as a public park, and so vandalism and long-term resiliency were key considerations. Despite the apparent complexity of the assembled petals, the design only required three unique petal shapes. These three forms were refined digitally using Grasshopper and Rhino. The resulting computer files were then provided to Kreysler & Associates and fed to their large 5-axis CNC router at their factory in California. The resulting Styrofoam “positives” were then used to manufacture the fiberglass “negatives” that were shipped to San Antonio to be used as formwork for the petals. Each of the park’s 28 petals was cast on-site but not in place. Given their complex geometry, a portion of the petal had to be exposed during the pour. This resulted in two contrasting concrete textures: a smooth finish where the concrete was poured into the fiberglass form, and a broom finish where the concrete was left exposed. As with many other aspects of the project, a custom solution was required here, too. A special eight-inch broom was used to apply the finish consistently to the petal’s curved form and to emulate the flow of water down the petals. After the concrete had cured for several days, the petals were lifted into their final positions. As with any tilt-up concrete structure, this was the moment when the highest stresses would be placed upon the petals. Adding to the complexity of the erection process was the fact that the petals had to be assembled in pairs: neighboring petals were joined to one another with two steel pin connections to form a determinant structure. The result of all this effort is a unique landmark on the south side of San Antonio. Despite the weight of the concrete petals—individual petals weigh between 15 and 20 tons each—the resulting structure feels remarkably light. The space between individual petals contributes to this feeling of weightlessness, while acrylic lenses embedded in the concrete add a bit of playfulness to the overall composition. In addition to illustrating the possibilities of contemporary concrete construction, Confluence Park demonstrates what is possible when a highly collaborative interdisciplinary design team works with an educated client to create something truly unique. It is only fitting that a park built to celebrate the confluence of diverse bodies of water be created by a confluence of diverse design professionals. Pavilion Design Matsys Landscape Architect Rialto Studio Structural Engineer Architectural Eng. Collaborative MEP CNG Engineering, PLLC Lighting Designer Mazzetti Energy Consultants Positive Energy Waterproofing Consultant Acton Partners This article originally appeared in the July/August issue of Texas Architect magazine.
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Low Line

San Antonio’s “Latino High Line” opens to the public
The first part of phase 1 of the San Pedro Creek redevelopment in San Antonio, Texas, is now open to the public, and the waterway’s rejuvenation has been touted as a celebration of Latino culture in the city. San Antonio-based Muñoz and Company was tapped in 2015 to design the 2.2-mile-long restoration of what was then a concrete drainage ditch. The completion of phase 1.1, a 2,200-foot-long stretch of riverwalk christened San Pedro Creek Culture Park, marks just one part of a four-phase plan to revitalize the 2.2-mile-long creek. “As the Trump administration boasts about building a wall between us and our Mexican roots, San Pedro Creek will be a national symbol for Latino and Anglo communities actually coming together to celebrate their shared values, history, and future,” said Henry R. Muñoz, Principal in Charge at Muñoz and project lead. “This unveiling marks the start of San Pedro Creek’s restoration, turning this neglected creek into the ‘Latino High Line,’ which exemplifies the community’s rich heritage and stands for a national dialogue playing out in nearly every city across the country.” The opening of the first phase on May 5 coincided with the 300th anniversary of San Antonio and was commemorated by the unveiling of Rain from the Heavens, a public art installation cut on stainless steel panels depicting what the stars looked like that night in 1718. Also on display in the Cultural Park are murals that honor the local culture of San Antonio and surrounding Bexar County, by artists Adriana Garcia, Katie Pell, Alex Rubio, and Joe Lopez. San Pedro Creek once flowed freely through the city but has been deepened, rerouted, and sometimes covered entirely since the 1700s. Each area of the river will eventually have its own design and accompanying visual identity, but retain a focus on the local ecology, history of San Antonio, and the water itself. The San Pedro Creek Culture Park section is hemmed in by historic limestone walls, and features widened walkways, a new boardwalk overlook, benches, and new landscaping that uses indigenous aquatic plants and trees. The widening and deepening of the creek also boosted the waterway’s ability to sequester stormwater, in addition to the five new bioswales that were installed. Phase 1.2 of the project is under construction and set to finish in 2020.
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River Walk This Way

Inside LMN Architects, the studio designing major urban projects from San Antonio to Vancouver

Awarded the 2016 AIA National Architecture Firm Award in December 2015, LMN Architects is having a moment. Perhaps most well known for its large urban projects—convention centers, performing arts centers and urban infrastructure—the Seattle firm has worked out of its downtown Seattle office in the 1959 international style Norton Building for the past 30 years. Founded in 1979, LMN is a one-studio firm with close to 150 employees. Its 40,000-square-foot office spans two-and-a-half floors.

“We believe the best way to comprehensively understand a space is to build physical models,” said LMN partner John Chau. “Models don’t lie...That’s why we like this building. It allows us to have spaces to do that.” The LMN office is mainly an open plan with downtown views, column-free studio spaces, model building areas, and conference rooms. A lower floor hosts LMN’s in-house digital fabrication shop. There’s a dual gantry CNC mill that LMN built about a year ago that features two cutting machines on a single cutting bed.

LMN discussed the challenges of building in the future: With less available land, sites will get smaller, necessitating building more efficiently and vertically to accommodate denser layers—more people, more infrastructure, and more ecology in the same space. “We no longer are just simply architects,” said Chau. “The need for all of us to collaborate more, communicate more, is even more critical—it’s important to know what the city council is thinking about, what its leads are. And it’s going back to being very informed citizens—we have the gift, ability, and the responsibility to help solve a lot of issues that arise.” 

Tobin Center for the Performing Arts San Antonio, TX

The performing arts center opened late 2014—an effort to reinvigorate the 1926 San Antonio Municipal Auditorium designed by architect Atlee Ayres that had become outdated. “We built a new auditorium, but rotated the geometry to create a new outdoor space and new entry to the San Antonio River Walk,” said LMN partner Mark Reddington. LMN kept the historic facade and added a new structure, clad in a textured metal veil. The shroud encloses the auditorium and filters the light in different colors and angles. The interior lobby hosts custom tiles that curve in plan and section—each row shifts, creating a negative volume.

Inside the main concert hall, a perforated wood fascia backlit with LEDs allows for an array of colorful effects. The hall can hold up to 1,738 seats and 2,100 people with a flat floor setup. The performance hall also contains the first gala floor system in the U.S. The seats sit on motorized platforms that can fold over, creating a flat floor that can be used for other types of events like rock concerts. Inside the performing arts center is a 295-seat studio theater and the outdoor plaza facing the San Antonio River can hold up to 600 seats.

University of Iowa Voxman Music Building Iowa City, IA

Opening October 2016, the new 180,000-square-foot music school for the University of Iowa will replace the previous one sited along the Iowa River that flooded in 2008. LMN moved the new building 50 feet up the hill, orienting it with the center of the college town. The mostly glass exterior building will hold a 700-seat concert hall, a recital hall with 200 seats, and rooms for pipe organs, classes, rehearsal areas, and faculty. “We wanted to create a building that was an extension of the public experience of the street, so that people could wander in, go to a performance at the music school, or students could come in and visit a professor,” said Reddington.

The building’s small footprint necessitated going vertical, stacking up to five stories of isolated music rooms. LMN developed a theatroacoustics system, a high-performance ceiling system that optimizes acoustics while hiding some of the structural elements such as speakers, microphones, fire sprinklers, and stage lights. “[The theatroacoustics system] was actually a money saving move,” said LMN partner Stephen Van Dyck. “They’re all put together in one gesture. It kind of becomes transcendent beyond any one of those individual pieces,” said Reddington.

Vancouver Convention Centre West Vancouver, BC, Canada

After a series of false starts and shifting sites, LMN knew its design for the west addition to the Vancouver Convention Centre would finally happen if Vancouver won the 2010 Olympic Winter Games bid. The project was included in the bid as the media center. When the architects saw the front page of the Vancouver Sun with the winning news, they knew they would get the green light. “That’s how we knew it was real,” said Chau. The 1.2-million–square-foot convention center addition was completed in 2009. It occupies 22 acres—14 acres on land, eight acres over the water—of what was once a brownfield site.

The convention center boasts a six-acre green roof with 240,000 bees producing honey for the convention center restaurant. The interiors feature local British Columbia wood. The project also supports the maritime harbor ecosystem. “It’s linked into the landscape, habitat, and shore system,” said Reddington. “There’s a marine habitat that goes around the edge of the building and underneath.” LMN used the concrete loading dock as the infrastructure to support a reef, said Van Dyck.

Sound Transit U Link University of Washington Station Seattle, WA

LMN designed the University of Washington light rail station and surrounding open space that opened in March 2016. The boarding platform can accommodate up to 1,600 people. “We had to link in all of this stuff—a bridge, a bicycle pathway, a head house, escalators, stairs, and then the station block underground that is 500 feet long,” said Reddington. Perhaps the most challenging, but rewarding, part of the project was designing the smoke chamber. “For fire requirements you have to create a big smoke chamber,” said Reddington. “If there is a fire somewhere, it helps isolate the fire so people can get out and not have smoke running all the way through the entire station.”

LMN worked with Seattle artist Leo Saul Berk, who created “Subterranium,” an installation made with nearly 9,000 square feet of custom deep blue metal backlit panels that wrap the smoke chamber. The panels tell the story of the site’s geology. “By integrating a lot of things into a single system, you have the capacity of one system to solve many problems—like a smoke enclosure that is now the main sculptural expression of a subway station,” said Van Dyck.

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METALAB Wins San Antonio River Barge Competition
Back on April Fools, the City of San Antonio and the local AIA San Antonio chapter announced the winners and runners up for the second phase of their river barge design competition (no joke). Their top pick: Houston-based design firm METALAB’s proposal for a multi-purpose electric barge that could serve both leisure-oriented activities as well as commuters on the San Antonio River. The barge could host dinner events, sightseeing tours, parades, and provide local transportation. Design-wise, much of this will be accomplished through a modular decking system of flexible components that can be adapted for the variety of proposed functions and programs. The design features a single deck for easier wheelchair accessibility. The railings—taking design cues from papel picado (Mexican folk art paper cut out decorations typically displayed during holidays and special events)—lean out to made the barge feel more spacious. In second place: a proposal by San Antonio-based Luna Architecture + Design with Neptune Beach, FL-based Lay Pittman & Associates. And in third: Austin-based Sadi Brewton + Jonathan Davies. There were twelve teams in the initial competition phase, with the top three finalists given $7,500 to expand their design concepts. METALAB's concept could replace the existing aging barge network. “The current river barge design was created for HemisFair ’68 to offer visitors rides up and down the length of the river,” said Roberto C. Treviño, District 1 City Councilman and architect, in a statement. “METALAB’s design is modular, modern, and offers the possibility for barge uses we couldn’t have imagined before. This not only presents a great option for tourists, but is an opportunity for residents and the local entrepreneurial community to propose new and imaginative ways to use the river barges.” The city will present the proposal to City Council this spring, and expects to put out two requests for proposals this May, one for construction, and the other for programming and operations. If the design moves ahead, San Antonio residents and visitors should expect to see a barge prototype on the river by 2017, and the final fleet ready in 2018.
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Pelli Clarke Pelli designs San Antonio’s first new office tower in three decades
In downtown San Antonio, famed New Haven, Connecticut–based firm Pelli Clarke Pelli (PCP) teamed up with local Alamo Architects to design the new Frost Bank Tower headquarters. It will be the first office tower to join the San Antonio skyline in three decades and one of several new PCP buildings in Texas, including Dallas’ McKinney & Olive tower and the Shraman South Asian Museum and Learning Center. Weston Urban and KDC of Dallas selected the firms in part because of its extreme care and attention to detail. When the firm's representatives shared the project with the selection team, they presented an impeccably detailed paper model of downtown San Antonio with a variety of different towers to illustrate a variety of choices for the site. Appropriately, PCP’s project leads, principal Bill Butler and Fred Clarke, are both native Texans who have spent ample time in San Antonio. The new tower is proposed to be 400,000 square feet, have an emphasis on sustainability, and will be integrated with the new design of the San Pedro Creek area, where architect David Adjaye just revealed his own art gallery. PCP's plan will include a new bridge and plaza. Ground breaking is slated to begin fall 2016 and completion in 2018 or '19, loosely coinciding with San Antonio’s 300-year anniversary in 2018.
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David Adjaye reveals his design for a museum at the Linda Pace Foundation in San Antonio
Architect David Adjaye, known for his modern, site-specific buildings including the upcoming Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture, was commissioned by artist and philanthropist Linda Pace to design a structure along San Antonio’s San Pedro Creek for her eponymous foundation’s growing contemporary art collection. The new building, called Ruby City, is expected to open in 2018; groundbreaking will commence in 2016. Pace tasked Adjaye with creating a gallery space reminiscent of a building she saw in a dream. “When I visited San Antonio in 2007, and met with Linda, we sketched out ideas and together, we envisioned a building that would resonate with her dream of the Ruby City. Like a city, the design offers an organic, heuristic encounter with the Foundation’s works and my hope is that it will become a place where artists and the wider community can be inspired to realize their own dreams through a meaningful experience with contemporary art,” said Adjaye. Appropriately, Ruby City will be clad in vibrant red precast concrete panels with expansive windows overlooking the park and city. The 14,000-square-foot, two-story building will house three gallery spaces containing 800-odd paintings, sculptures, installations, and videos. “The building is envisioned as a beacon for San Antonio. The impact of the Foundation’s mission is already evidenced in San Antonio’s thriving contemporary art scene and its creative economy,” Linda Pace Foundation’s President, Rick Moore, said in a statement.
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San Antonio Mayor Reportedly Tapped To Replace Donovan as HUD Secretary
President Obama will reportedly nominate San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro to lead the Department of Housing and Urban Development. If confirmed by the senate, Castro will succeed Shaun Donovan, a trained architect, who has been at the agency since 2009. Donovan is expected to head the Office of Management and Budget. Since the news about Castro broke, there has been very little discussion about what this appointment means for the future of HUD. Instead, the Chattering Class has been entirely focused on what it means for national politics. And that is not surprising given that Castro is a “rising star” in Democratic politics. He gave the keynote address at the 2012 Democratic National Convention, is seen as a possible vice presidential candidate in 2016, and has been referred to as the "next Obama" in countless columns. Many political observers believe this nomination is a way for President Obama to increase diversity in his cabinet, and for Castro to build a national profile. But back to the task at hand: What will Castro mean for the future of HUD? That is a hard question to answer because, again, this appointment is so wrapped up in politics. His background at the helm of a major Southwestern city brings its own distinct qualifications to the job. One possible glimpse into Castro’s legislative priorities is SA 2020, an initiative his administration launched in 2010 as a community-based approach to city planning. According to an SA 2020 progress report, by 2020, the city plans to add 5,000 new apartments downtown, reduce vehicle miles traveled per individual by 10 percent, and double attendance at cultural programs. As HUD Secretary, Castro will be tasked with setting somewhat similar goals, but on a much larger scale. Implementing any big plans, though, will be difficult considering the president has less than three years left in his term. One immediately pressing topic on his agenda will be Rebuild By Design, a design challenge led by the agency to create a more resilient Eastern seaboard. AN recently reported that the competition's winner would be announced in the coming weeks. A possible change of leadership at HUD is not expected to change that. An official involved with Rebuild, who is not authorized to speak publicly on the matter, told AN "everything is moving as planned with full dedication and speed."
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Urban Ecology Center Finds New Grounds at San Antonio’s Phil Hardberger Park
Last Saturday, the San Antonio community inaugurated the Lake|Flato Architects–designed Urban Ecology Center (UEC). Sited on the West Side of Phil Hardberger Park, the 18,600-square-foot UEC will be home to the Alamo Area Chapter of the Texas Master Naturalists. This latest showpiece in the city’s park system will serve as a functional ecological system, a meeting space, and an urban ecology learning facility. Parks Project Manager Sandy Jenkins explained that the center was built with the intention of informing future generations about environmental concerns and the preservation of ecological systems. Former mayor Phil Hardberger, who recognized the asset of parks in improving the general urban quality of life, originally prompted the construction of the park in 2010. Covering 311 acres on eiter side of the Wurzbach Parkway, it was built as a means to preserve San Antonio's environmental treasures and natural heritage. The UEC is a $6.3 million LEED green project and was funded by the largest municipal bond program in San Antonio history. It is equipped with water harvesting and reclamation systems, which minimize both operational costs and impacts on the environment. The center is constructed out of sustainable materials and irrigated by an extensive rainwater collection system and a bio-swale that collects run-off, stores it into a detention basin, and reuses it when needed. It is also armed with photovoltaic solar panels capable of powering three average houses. The 8:00 a.m. opening attracted more than 500 visitors, including architects, neighbors, park employees, and environmental activists. It featured guided hikes, a wide array of presentations by civic leaders, green building and recycling awareness, and hands-on wildlife activities. The center embodies San Antonio’s communal effort to preserve its natural landscape and shows how the city has developed a sense of environmental stewardship. A significant amount of work still needs to be done, as only 60 percent of the park's construction has been completed.
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San Antonio Rose
The renovation restored access to a Howard Cook fresco.
Courtesy Trivers Associates

St. Louis-based architecture firm Trivers Associates had to balance historic preservation concerns with modern performance standards when it recently rehabilitated a Beaux Arts federal courthouse located across from the Alamo in San Antonio.

Still, the firm was able to strike just the right balance, earning the project a LEED Platinum certification without disturbing Texas’ most hallowed ground.

Completed last summer, the Hipolito F. Garcia Federal Building and United States Courthouse became the first LEED Platinum building owned by the General Services Administration (GSA). The architects employed standard energy-saving techniques, sealing the building’s envelope and upgrading the building’s systems to high-efficiency mechanical and electrical ones, while striving to revive the building’s unique character.

 
   

“The building was in dire need of renovation,” said principal Andy Trivers. In addition to flunking the GSA’s energy performance standards, Hipolito lagged in security and accessibility, Trivers said.

An expansive Howard Cook fresco depicting Texas history adorned the lobby, but the whole front entrance of the federal courthouse had been shut down since 9/11, denying access to the public. The renovation inserted low shear-glass partitions that corral and guide visitors through the space to the security screening equipment at the back.

“It’s a delicate intervention of security that works with the historic element,” Trivers said. “Part of maintaining the historic character is not distracting [visitors] with contemporary interventions. All of these things had to be hidden.”

Vertical chases now hide heat-recovery equipment from the street view of the 1937 building, designed by architects Ralph Cameron and Paul Cret and constructed partially within the original walls of the Alamo.

“Essentially a huge ‘doughnut’” is the way Trivers described the six-story Hipolito building, which encloses a five-story light well. The architects inserted a green roof atop the second floor at the bottom of the light well and positioned solar photovoltaic and solar thermal panels on top of the building’s sixth floor.

 

All of the irrigation for the green roof, as well as for the rest of Hipolito’s landscaping, is collected on site. The building captures rainwater, as well as water from a small stream running underneath the building that the team discovered during initial site surveys.

The design also converted old postal service windows into touch screens, offering information about the building’s mechanical and electrical systems and earning the project a LEED point for education.

Courthouse judges value the use of daylight in historic buildings like Hipolito, Trivers said. “What they don’t love,” he added, “is that [historic buildings] don’t provide the technology they need.”

While retrofitting rooms to optimize daylight and integrate new technology, the design team also restored the building’s original electrical lighting fixtures. Those ornamental luminaires were shipped to Missouri, where St. Louis restoration company Antique Lighting rewired and rebuilt each piece using original materials.

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Almost Anything Goes in Santa Barbara
Courtesy MCASB

Almost Anything Goes: Architecture and Inclusivity
Museum of Contemporary Arts Santa Barbara
653 Paso Nuevo, Santa Barbara, California
Through April 13

It is impossible to underestimate the role that museum and gallery exhibitions have played in the history of modern architecture. Figures like Giuseppi Terragni, Lilly Reich, Bernard Rudofsky and, today, Neil Denari and Diller + Scofidio have all designed for and in the space of the gallery. They often designed exhibitions before they could get a building commission, or during slow economic times, but for all of these figures the gallery was a site where they could theorize or construct models that were still spinning in their heads but not yet possible to realize. Some of the most exciting ideas in 20th century Avant-garde architecture were first thought out in galleries, such as Frederick Kiesler’s Endless City, and his “L and T” method of installation design. In recent times, Diller + Scofidio’s Tourisms: suitCase Studies (1991) can surely be said to have lead to their design for The Brasserie, Boston’s ICA, and the just unveiled Gray Box gallery/theater at MoMA. Though the historic links from gallery to building are clear, critics often assert that architects in galleries do not produce architecture but art or, worse, architecture posing as art. This argument is often, but not always, a canard for architects who long for physical spaces where they can experiment, communicate with the public, and succeed or fail. The gallery space provides an opportunity for architects to experiment in real time, and space has never been more important than today when digital design can imagine the most hyperbolic forms, use of new materials, and geometries that may or may not be buildable. Benjamin Ball of Ball-Nogues Studio, a practice that has flourished in the design of installations, makes exactly this point about their work for galleries. Their goal, Ball admits, is to be in dialogue with the 75 years of artistic practice, but even more they want to do research about craft and the process of production.

   
Design, Bitches, Masters of Architecture, 2012.
Courtesy Design, Bitches
 

These issues of design intent, production, and even reception are all played out in the exhibition Almost Anything Goes: Architecture and Inclusivity at the Museum of Contemporary Arts Santa Barbara. Conceived and co-curated by Brigitte Kouo, a designer with an interest in architecture, and the museum’s director and chief curator Miki Garcia, it smartly selects a group of young Southern California designers all working in different areas of architectural research and production. Ball-Nogues Studio was a natural inclusion in this survey. They are joined by Amorphis, Atelier Manferdini, Design Bitches, dO|Su Studio Architecture, Digital Physical, and Variate Labs.

The entrance to the exhibit foregrounds an eight-foot-tall sculptural object, exo, 2013, created by DO/SU Studio Architecture and its principle Doris Sung. It is a creative study for a multiple layered building facade if it were made of thermo-bimetals, in this case aluminum, a “smart… material that inherently responds to temperature, curling when heated and flattening when cooled.” It aims to challenge our perception of a facade as only a protective coating when it could be, as Sung said, “a responsive and active skin.”

Gallery view revealing several installation pieces.
Courtesy MCASB
 

Scattered around the gallery are luscious candy colored tabletops created by Atelier Manferdini that foreground architecture’s “communicative value” and look good enough to eat. The architects in this exhibit are young so one wants to encourage all sorts of experimentation strategies, but also to warn them to be aware of the possible clichés of art world production. All of the works in the exhibition do focus on architecture. The sculptural wall pieces by Amorphis could benefit from an updated reading on the critiques of minimalism, but still they suggest a relationship between the viewer and the work of art mediated by personal conditions—a major concern of architects. Another installation that straddles the strategies of art but still makes a convincing case for what architects can bring to the debate are the photographs by Design Bitches that use personal images of the architects standing in for the male heroes of yore. They are quite convincing and hilarious. Design Bitches also has a beautifully crafted series of concrete bags arched across the gallery ceiling like clouds dripping rain that playing with notions of “heaviness and somber lightness.”

The old installation pros Ball-Nogues produced the most convincing object and creative design strategy with their Mickey Mouse ear–like paper lamp. It was created by shooting paper pulp though a pressured sprayer into molds of flexible inflatable fabric. These paper lamps are one-off prototypes in the gallery, but suggest a way of creating objects of mass production. Ball-Nogues Studio is now working on its first building in San Antonio, Texas.

Santa Barbara is a seductive landscape of historic mission architecture. One does not expect to find adventurous design here. So the curators are to be congratulated for making this exhibit happen in their enticing shopping mall gallery. It displays again the amazing depth and creativity of young architects in the Southern California region.