With construction on the first segment of the San Pedro Creek Project currently underway, artists and designers working with lead architectural developer Muñoz and Company are envisioning public art and design ideas for the remaining segments of the two-mile long creek.
The project is divided into four distinct phases. Bexar County Commissioners reviewed and approved designs proposed for the second segment of the project’s first phase on Tuesday.
“We’ve got the first phase from the inlet at Fox Tech [High School] up to Houston Street nailed down,” Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff said. “We know what we’re seeing there, we know the artwork we’re doing there, and now we’re talking about going from Houston Street up to César Chávez Boulevard, and it’s looking really good to me.”
The San Pedro Creek Improvements Project is a $175 million endeavor to turn the concrete-lined drainage ditch into an economically vibrant linear park where cultural and historic artworks complement municipal efforts to create better flood control capabilities and revitalized natural habitats. The San Antonio River Authority is managing the project, and the County is financing it.
While a key component of the project is finding ways to better utilize the creek, another is to reintroduce the city to the creek’s historic and cultural significance.
“This is a project that’s built off of the involvement of artists and historians in collaboration with planners, designers, and architects,” said Henry Muñoz, CEO of Muñoz and Company.
“The wonderful thing about the entire project is that it takes stories that have never been told about who we are as a community and it creates spaces out of them,” he said.
Muñoz presented the latest conceptual art renderings to Commissioners, who gave their preliminary approval Tuesday. However, these ideas must be further refined and approved individually by the Commissioners Court before construction begins.
Details on the design of the forthcoming amphitheater, to be located behind the Alameda Theater, were shown during the presentation. Local artist Michael Menchaca designed the tiles that will line benches situated in and around the amphitheater. Menchaca used patterns found inside the Alameda as inspiration for his designs.
One of the larger concepts proposed is for an area tentatively named Tejano Plaza. The demolition of a Dollar General, formerly the site of the Woolworth Building, opened up a space that could celebrate one of the key cultural influences in San Antonio. Some consider San Antonio the Tejano music capital of the world, and Muñoz and Company proposed dedicating the design of a new sunken garden to an instrument prevalent in that musical genre.
The proposed entrance to the creekside garden is shaped similarly to the stretching body of an accordion. Arcs create that body and are colored with glittering car paints that match those used to paint the instrument. Seats are shaped like the buttons found on the instrument’s body.
Glass-cast faces will be featured underneath the Dolorosa Street Bridge with a small waterfall descending in front of them. The faces are meant to represent weeping women, symbolizing lives lost in the Battle of Medina in 1813.
Luminarias will be located on each of the bridges stretching over the creek. Each will have a unique design inspired by stories or influences pertaining to the bridge.
The custom-made luminaria for the Dolorosa Street Bridge will follow the solemn theme with tear-shaped chimes inside the luminaria’s body creating musical sounds.
An expansive wall between Nueva and Dolorosa streets is reserved for some of the project’s poetic elements. Above short poetic verses written by local author and filmmaker John Phillip Santos is the slogan Libertatis Cunabula, which translates to “cradle of liberty.”
Santos wrote the mythical opera Las Fundaciones de Béjar, which portrayed the history and legacy of the San Pedro Creek, specifically for the creek’s groundbreaking celebration in September 2016.
The area will also pay homage to José Antonio Navarro, whose historic home Casa Navarro is located nearby. Navarro and his uncle José Francisco Ruiz were the only native Texans among 59 men whose signatures ended up on the Texas Declaration of Independence, playing into the cradle of liberty theme.
“We’ve spent a lot of time going over all of that and trying to make sure we get the history right,” Wolff said. “[It is important] that we tell the story of ‘Military City, USA,’ what it’s meant to San Antonio, and how it changed our way of living here.”
The stretch between Nueva and Graham streets is dedicated to commemorating the military influence and its continued presence in San Antonio. One proposal, mulled over in particular detail by the commissioners, is a symbolic military star.
Commissioners joked about its potential to be perceived as a piñata or the Dallas Cowboys’ logo. Commissioner Kevin Wolff (Pct. 3) broke through the levity with a positive affirmation of its presence above the bridge.
The Graham Street Bridge is also likely to receive designs featuring military influences. Renderings show review stands on either side, which would be located near the forthcoming development of the new Federal Courthouse. Vegetation encasements and seating areas would be colored after U.S. Military medal ribbons.
The presentation concluded with a reimagined design for the César Chávez Bridge. Eagles being symbolic of Mexico, the United States, and Spain, as well as the United Farm Workers founded by César Chávez, designers plan to incorporate them with other nearby military symbols.
A structure similar to a descending awning is an abstract modernist representation of an eagle’s wingspan. The colors are subject to change pending further review and consideration.
As of Tuesday, the first segment of the project’s first phase is still set to be completed by May of 2018 in time for the city’s Tricentennial celebrations. While the project’s final completion is still a ways away, the new renderings give an idea to the shape that future construction will take on in the months to come.
“We got more work to do, but it’s beginning to come together,” Judge Wolff said.