San Antonio River Authority (SARA) has hired the Mexico City-based landscape architect Mario Schjetnan Garduño with the firm Grupo de Diseño Urbano (GDU), as a consultant on the San Pedro Creek Improvements Project.

SARA serves as the project manager of the San Pedro Creek Improvements Project.

Last month, SARA announced plans to hire three landscape architecture firms to review the design plans of Muñoz & Co. and provide independent ideas. That announcement followed mounting discontent among property owners along San Pedro Creek with the Muñoz design concepts, particularly the proposed Tree of Life, the Salinas Street Bridge, and the Alameda Amphitheater.

Weston Urban, which is developing the new Frost Bank Tower with its partner, KDC of Dallas, announced plans to hire its own landscape architect to assure the tower and residential projects Weston Urban will develop along and near San Pedro Creek offer an inviting street level experience.

SARA’S decision to reverse course and hire a single firm caught the downtown development community by surprise Friday, and most were looking for more information behind the decision.

Mario Schjetnan will be a consultant with the San Pedro Creek Project design team. Photo courtesy GDU.
Mario Schjetnan will be a consultant with the San Pedro Creek Project design team. Photo courtesy GDU.

Schjetnan’s Grupo de Diseño Urbano (GDU), joined the design team and will stay on board for the duration of the project.

“This provides more of an opportunity to integrate the ideas into the project, instead of just giving ideas and then leaving,” said Suzanne Scott, SARA’s general manager. “This approach is more about having (GDU) come in, be part of the team, and integrate the landscape architecture ideas.”

Scott is confident that GDU can bring fresh ideas to the table.

“As we near the completion of the final design, the addition of Mario Schjetnan and GDU to the design team will provide an opportunity to enrich the landscape design for this unique cultural park,” Scott stated in a news release.

As Scott and her colleagues searched for landscape architects, Schjetnan’s name continued to reappear.

“He came very highly recommended by many of the people that we consulted with through the process,” Scott said.

Schjetnan’s firm, headquartered in Mexico City, has won numerous architectural awards for projects in deserts, in gardens, by the seaside, in the mountains, and in urban areas.

Although Schjetnan’s firm is based in Mexico City, he’s a member of the American Society of Landscape Architects and he’s worked on multiple projects in the United States, including the Southwest.

“Other folks have looked at his work and felt that the projects that he’s worked on are relevant to what were trying to do here, to integrate a creek into development,” Scott said. “The types of landscape architecture skills and talents that we need, this gentleman can bring to the project.”

Projects along other waterways of the world include Punta Islita in Costa Rica, the Garden of Forgiveness in Beirut, and Union Point Park in Oakland, California.

Schjetnan’s work in Mexico includes numerous award-winning projects relevant to the San Pedro Creek Project such as Canal de la Cortadura in Tampico, Xochimilco Ecological Park in Mexico City, and Zacatecas Ecological Park in Zacatecas.

Other projects along Mexican waterways include the Carpintero Lagoon in Tampico, the Ojo de Agua del Obispo in Durango, the Copalita Eco-Archaeological Park in Oaxaca, the Metropolitan Park of Chapulco in Puebla, and Los Itzicuaros Park in Michoacán.

“His previous work on similar projects will bring valuable insight to the team to enhance the user experience, integration with future development and the landscape planting palette,” Scott said in a news release.

In the past, Schjetnan collaborated with the now-deceased Ricardo Legorreta, the architect of the San Antonio Central Library. The two worked together on the Bicentenario Park located in Mexico City; Legorreta as the architect and Schjetnan as the masterplanner and landscape architect.

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According to their brochure, GDU is geared to produce integrated concepts of environmental design, connecting landscape architecture, architecture and urban design in spatial, aesthetic and social context.

“Our philosophy is based on the conviction that urban and rural design must be transformed by a creative process, in balance with nature, and carefully looking to the local culture, climate and surroundings; involving the participation of the client or the user,” the brochure states.

The SARA news release said that Muñoz & Company, who serves as the lead architect on the project, will host Schjetnan in his visit to San Antonio this month. Local architects will share the goals and objectives of the project and focus on finalizing a design for San Pedro Creek that will celebrate the heritage and culture of San Antonio.

Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff liked what he saw when the 70% plan was presented to Commissioner’s Court in August. He was mayor when the City adopted Legorreta’s design for the Central Library and officials hope he will approve of Schjetnan’s ideas.

“The Commissioners Court has been very impressed with the project designs presented by Muñoz & Company, particularly the color, patterns and textures reflecting our city’s Hispanic roots and traditions,” David Smith, Bexar County manager, stated in a press release. “As a landscape architect who has worked on numerous urban parks, Schjetnan’s consultation will only enhance these design concepts.”

Schjetnan will have an opportunity to meet with Judge Wolff, Commissioner Paul Elizondo, and Councilmember Roberto Treviño (D1), as well as members of the San Pedro Creek subcommittee and business and property owners along the creek.

“It is a true honor and pleasure to participate with Bexar County and the San Antonio River Authority in the exciting San Pedro Creek Project,” Schjetnan stated in a press release. “I look forward to bringing my experience and talent to the team.”

The principle architect of the SPCIP, Henry Muñoz III, CEO of Muñoz & Company, looks forward to working with Schjetnan and his firm.

“GDU is a welcome addition to our team composed of designers, storytellers and historians,” Muñoz stated in a press release. “We want to be sure that our landscape design best represents the distinctive character of San Antonio’s Mexican and Mexican-American influenced environment in the creation of what will be a linear park like nowhere else in the world.”

Steven Land Tillotson, design principal with Muñoz & Company, said that GDU’s main focus will be on the creek designs north of Houston Street. Plans for this portion of the stream are for a more natural landscape. Private development plans along the banks are underway.

“This is where redevelopment plans have rapidly emerged in response to the project and the opportunity for a more integrated design is vital,” Tillotson stated in a press release, “not just for the landowners, but ultimately for San Antonians who will be living and working in a new urban community.”

The next San Pedro Creek subcommittee meeting is scheduled for Oct. 8 at 8:30 a.m. at the San Antonio River Authority board room. A project update and a presentation about GDU by Suzanne Scott is on the agenda. There is no charge to attend and the public is invited. Keep up with the project’s meeting schedule at their website.

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Don Mathis

Don’s life revolves around the many poetry circles in San Antonio. His poems have been published in many anthologies and periodicals and broadcasted on local TV and national radio. In addition to poetry,...