There are two miles of concrete retaining walls along San Pedro Creek, but a local team of designers see those walls as two miles of fresh canvas, perfect for telling the cultural history of San Antonio.
Local design and architecture firm Muñoz & Company, Pape Dawson Engineers and the San Antonio River Authority are working on the creative concepts for the San Pedro Creek Improvements Project, a $175 million initiative that promises to transform the concrete flood control system into a linear park with cultural and historical amenities.
As part of the interpretive master plan they’ve created for the artwork along the creek, designers have separated the creek into eight different parts, each one focusing on a historical or cultural theme that relates to that particular area of the creek.
On Tuesday, Bexar County commissioners approved the latest artistic concepts for the walls in the first segment of the creek – from the tunnel inlet near Fox Tech High School to Houston Street. That segment is set to be completed by the city’s Tricentennial celebration in May 2018.
“The idea walking through the history of 300 years of Bexar County and San Antonio is to create a place that is unlike any place in the United States,” Henry Muñoz, Muñoz & Company CEO, told commissioners, “but that has an affinity to those great public spaces around the world that people travel specifically to in order to experience the culture of [that] community.”
Muñoz’s firm is serving as lead architect of the San Pedro Creek Improvements Project.
Native wildlife, symbols of the indigenous people who once inhabited the area, and the histories of the different communities that converged there over time are some of the images that the mosaics, murals, sculptures, and word art pieces will portray in an interactive way, Muñoz said. For the first section of the creek, there are more than 30 spots for these artistic elements.
Check out some of the conceptual renderings below, but keep in mind that these are very preliminary ideas. County commissioners will have to approve each artist and work of art. No specific artists or pieces, save for the installation at the Tree of Life Plaza, have been approved yet.
River Authority officials said that they are engaging local artists to come up with ideas for the San Pedro Creek walls. In Tuesday’s presentation, Muñoz named local artists Jesse Treviño, Michael Menchaca, and John Phillip Santos as possibilities.
Muñoz and his team have already collaborated with San Antonio College’s Scobee Planetarium to create a constellation map that shows what the San Antonio sky looked like on May 5, 1718, the day San Antonio de Béxar Presidio was founded. If approved, the installation would be placed at the tunnel inlet to transform the “ugly, uninteresting piece of technical equipment” into a large rendering of the sky, lit from behind with LED lights, Muñoz said.
The installation would be one of many that aim to connect visitors to San Pedro Creek’s history.
Other interpretive topics will be portrayed through signage along the creek, marking the various points in time significant to the city and the waterway. Those include: The Diverse Cultures of Upper San Pedro Creek, Birth of a City, Celebrating the Tricentennial of San Antonio de Bexar, The Channelization of San Pedro Creek, Reclaiming Nature and Water Quality, Industry on San Pedro Creek, The Legacy of Early Settlers, A Financial Legacy, The Barrio del Norte, and Health Care West of the Creek.
Another proposed work of art is a 12-ft. tall, 225-ft. long tile mural, centered around the theme “From all roads, we are all one.” Designers would take whatever images are chosen for the mural, digitize them, and imprint them on the tiles, Muñoz said. “The tile will last forever, basically.”
The mural would face the city’s Westside and be located near the new Frost Bank tower that is set to be completed by the end of 2018 or early 2019. The subject matter for the mural is not yet been chosen.
“Storytelling is an important part of this project,” Muñoz said, adding that the creek project will be much different than San Antonio’s River Walk. “The difference here is that we have a vast canvas of walls, sidewalk, street furniture ornamentally along San Pedro Creek to be able to reflect the stories of who we are as a people over the last three centuries.”
Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff is looking forward to the art along the creek accurately portraying the mixture of culture that San Antonio is and has been since the start.
“When you come on the creek you’re going to know you’re in San Antonio, you’re going to learn about the history of San Antonio and the history and development around the creek, you’re going to see artwork that pertains to San Antonio,” he said.
“It’s going to be colorful, it’s going to be an entirely different experience for citizens of San Antonio and visitors.”