Viewing entries tagged
San Antonio

Missing From Travis Park

memorial02.jpg

My grandfather's generation fought Nazis in Europe. I bet he never thought his grandson's generation would need to fight neo-Nazis and the hatred they represent in public parks here in the United States.

On this episode of the podcast we talk about Travis Park and the monument that was built there. As always, please talk a moment to listen to the story and if you like what you hear, feel listen to the other episodes or subscribe to the podcast on iTunes where you can also rate the show and leave a comment.

Still Under The Bridge

Fiesta is underway in San Antonio.

For a transplant like myself the seventeen-day-lang series of events initially baffled me. Although it was originally a celebration that commemorated the defeat of Mexico by the Texan Armies, it has ballooned into something much larger and more complex. For the record, the Texas Revolution wasn't just a battle between Texas vs, Mexicans: it too was something larger and more complex than (just ask this guy).

At any rate, the celebration as it exists today consists of many seemingly unrelated events. There's an oyster bake, a carnival and lots of concerts. Fiesta has its own acronyms. NIOSA (Night in Old San Antonio) is a block party in historic La Villita. And of course it has its own parades. 

Lots of parades.

In addition to river parades and dog parades, Fiesta has some major street parades. The Battle of Flowers and Flambeau Parades are arguably the crowning events of the Fiesta Celebration. Even though they occur in late April, it can be pretty hot in San Antonio by then (this this year it's already humid and in the 90s). The parade route travels under the U.S. Highway 281 / Interstate 35 interchange and the shade provided by these elevated roadways have become popular places to watch the parades. They are so popular, in fact, that people started camping out days ahead of the actual parades in order to secure a good spot for themselves and their families. 

It's basically a temporary city that forms under the bridge with its own, rules, culture and yes, it's own architecture. This was supposed to be the last year that families were allowed to camp there but the city seems to have backed away from their decision to prohibit it moving forward.

I couple of years ago I produced an episode of The Works that talked about this unique San Antonio phenomenon. It's still one of my favorite podcast episodes and it's worth a listen if you haven't heard it in a while.

So have a listen, have a good laugh and have a happy Fiesta.

Fiber Huts

When news broke last week that the City of San Antonio was pausing construction on several of the "network huts" required for the implementation of Google's fiberoptic broadband internet service I was both excited and concerned. On the one hand I was thrilled to hear that physical construction had begun on San Antonio's Google Fiber network. On the other hand I was worried to hear that there had been some localized pushback.

One hut that had been the source of criticism was the one built in Haskin Park. My family actually lives less than a mile from there (the girls and I have ridden our bikes there in the past) and so I decided to take a look and see just how offensive these little buildings were.

There's not a whole lot to a fiber hut: the one in Haskin Park was about thirty feet long by about ten feet wide. The windowless prefabricated building is surrounded by a larger service yard enclosed by a cedar fence. It's pushed to the southern edge of the park and although it seems like pushing it to the rear (eastern end) of the park would have made it less conspicuous it didn't seem like its placement interfered much with how the park is used.

the current fiber hut at Haskin Park

the current fiber hut at Haskin Park

In the grand scheme of things, the hut seemed pretty innocuous and certainly less offensive than the artifacts created by the recent "fracking" boom that are now scattered throughout north and south Texas. It would be easy to dismiss this sort of thing as a typical NIMBY response but there is a legitimate philosophical concern about eroding public park space with structures that support commercial interests. San Antonio certainly is not alone in its struggle with this sort of thing.

Still, I was left with a sense that how fiber huts have been built so far represented a missed opportunity both for Google and the City of San Antonio. Rather than see these structures as pieces of telecommunication infrastructure to be hidden, why not celebrate them as opportunities to improve the places where they are located? Rather than look at these huts as a necessary evil, why not embrace them as a way for a corporate entity to reach out to the customers in the city it serves.

In other words, this struck me as a design problem; one that could be addressed by architecture.

We wondering what this sort of thing might look like and so we did what architects do: we started doodling. The current arrangement is simply a hut surrounded by a wood security fence and starting there we began to imagine how that fence could do a better job of screening while evolving into and amenity for the park itself.

Concern has been expressed about the noise that is periodically produced by the cooling units and back-up generators associated with the huts. To address this an earthen berm could be built to acoustically isolate the hut from the rest of the park. A more robust screening element could then be built to act as a canvas for graphics to imbue the structure with a an identity related to its particular neighborhood. This berm and screen could act as a framework for other activities: it could become a play structure itself or even a stage for public performances.

Keep in mind we know nothing about the actual requirements for these network huts, the agreement Google has with the City of San Antonio or the budgets that are in place. This quick design exercise was made in a vacuum merely to illustrate what an alternative approach might look like. It is but one solution to the problem. It would be easy to imagine many others. 

In fact, we were reminded of the Park Pavilion Program that has seen nearly forty new park structures built throughout the city of Dallas. Designed by multiple architects these pavilions have become an excellent example of how good design can imbue places with identity and utility. It's not difficult to imagine a similar program in San Antonio where a series of pavilions sponsored by Google screen the huts that support their network while also giving back the the community they serve.

 

 

 

Walking (and Podcasting) the San Antonio River

Of course San Antonio is known for the Alamo but the most popular tourist attraction in the city is its River Walk. Its an integral part of the city, but it wasn't always that way.

In this month's episode of The Works we tell the story of how San Antonio tamed its river and how that river has tamed San Antonio.

As always, please talk a moment to listen to the story and if you like what you hear, subscribe to the podcast on iTunes where you can also rate the show and leave a comment.

When The Pope Came To Texas

image courtesy the San Antonio Express-News

It was a big deal last month when Pope Francis visited the United States. It was a really big deal when Pope John Paul II visited San Antonio back in 1987. For the ninth episode of The Works we tell the full story (for possibly the first time) of the agony and the ecstasy experienced by the young group of architects tasked with designing the grounds, altar and backdrop for the Pope's open-air Mass that was expected to draw 500,000 people.

So do have a listen and as always if you like what you hear, subscribe to it on iTunes where you can also rate the show and leave a review - two things that help other people find the show.

Stay tuned - this is the last episode before the exciting season finale...

 

The Works Goes To The Kiddie Park

For seven months now The Works has brought you stories about architecture, those who create it and those who inhabit it. For the eighth episode we try something a little different and a little more personal. This time we talk about a very special place that is very special to a little girl who is growing up before her father's eyes.

So please do a listen and as always if you like what you hear, subscribe to it on iTunes where you can also rate the show and leave a review.

Satellite office

So now that Betsy is up and running it made sense to order business cards.  Of course, the fact that I am in San Antonio and she is in Dallas raised the question of which address should we put on her card.  Dare we claim that HiWorks has both a San Antonio and a Dallas office?

 

I think we should...