A large crowd gathers for the opening celebration of Confluence Park.
A large crowd gathers for the opening celebration of Confluence Park in March 2018. Credit: Bonnie Arbittier / San Antonio Report

San Antonio’s Confluence Park has earned one of the architecture industry’s highest honors.

The American Institute of Architects (AIA) in January awarded nine projects the 2019 Institute Honor Award for Architecture. Confluence Park is one of the seven winners in the United States, with the two remaining projects located in Denmark and Canada.

The park joins notable institutions such as Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture in receiving the award, which recognizes design achievement in “sense of place and purpose, ecology, environmental sustainability, and history”  in contemporary architecture.

Located on the near South Side, Confluence Park is the result of a collaborative design process involving Lake Flato Architects, Andrew Kudless of Matsys, Rialto Studio and the client, the San Antonio River Foundation. Tenna Florian, Lake Flato associate partner and lead design on the project, said that collaboration made Confluence Park successful.

“We worked closely with the design team and the [River Foundation] to create a park that achieved the client’s vision of the design itself inspiring environmental education and stewardship,” Florian said in a news release.

The five-acre park, which took more than 18 months and $10.7 million in design and construction costs to complete, replaced a former CPS Energy construction storage yard  where San Pedro Creek meets the San Antonio River.

Confluence Park features native plants and examples of different Texas landscapes and is a part of the $384 million Mission Reach urban river restoration project.

Robert Amerman, executive director of the San Antonio River Foundation, said the park’s pavilion, which consists of concrete “petals” that stand 20 to 29 feet tall, is “an inspired example of complex, contemporary making.” The petals act as rainwater catchers, funneling water into native plants and soil to irrigate the landscape.

“This park, and the awards it is receiving, is an example of ‘build with authenticity, build something that matters,’” Amerman said in a news release.

Confluence Park has played host to more than 14,000 students and program attendees and partner to more than 30 nonprofits and 50 schools in its first year of operation, according to the River Foundation. Confluence Park Director Frates Seeligson said the park is a thoughtful space that gives people a better understanding of the “unique area” in which they live. 

“To see our neighbors and community internalizing and acting upon what it means to be an environmental steward by way of the built space is incredible,” Seeligson said, “and it is wonderful to see this validated on a national level.”

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Jackie Wang

Jackie Wang covered local government for the San Antonio Report.