Alamo Museum Architects To Bring Bold Vision, Respect For History

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Courtesy / Brantley Hightower

Integrating three historical buildings presents a challenge in the Alamo Museum design.

I was thrilled when I first heard of the selection of Machado Silvetti as the architect for the new Alamo Museum here in San Antonio. I’ve been a fan of the firm’s work for some time. From their bold design for Wiess College at Rice University in Houston to their sensitive remodeling of the Getty Villa in Los Angeles, their work has consistently shown a respect for the history and uniqueness of a particular place.

The Alamo, of course, is one such unique and particular place.

In addition to being the “Shrine of Texas Liberty,” the Alamo represents a fascinating nexus of history, legend, commerce, and culture. It’s a tremendously important place in our city, in our state, and in our imagination.

Some may claim an architecture firm headquartered in Boston and led by two architects from Argentina can’t possibly understand the significance of the Alamo. Some may say that only a firm from Texas could design a museum to tell the quintessentially Texan story of the Alamo.

I respectfully disagree.

For over three hundred years, San Antonio existed as a confluence of cultures. People from all over the world have come to build their lives here. They may not have been born in Texas, but they quickly learned that this was a special place that was worth fighting to protect. It’s worth remembering that William Travis was from South Carolina, Davy Crockett was from North Carolina by way of Tennessee, and Jim Bowie was from Kentucky by way of Louisiana.

It’s also worth remembering that Tim Duncan was born in the U.S. Virgin Islands, Tony Parker was born in Belgium, and Manu Ginobli was born in Argentina, the same place the two founding partners of Machado Silvetti call home. En unión y libertad.

I have no idea what the team at Machado Silvetti will propose, but I genuinely believe their design for the Alamo Museum will reflect the fact that the San Antonio that exists today represents three centuries of historical layers. The Alamo is, after all, an 18th-century mission that served as the site of a 19th-century battle that then became a cultural icon in the 20th-century. Anything added in the 21st-century should build upon those layers.

The site of the museum is as rich with history as the mission it faces and whose story it is to tell. The famed local architect Alfred Giles designed the 1882 Crockett Block for the legendary Maverick family. The 1923 Palace Theater was once operated by John Louis Santikos who went on to build the largest family-owned theatre company in Texas. The 1921 Woolworth Building was the site of the first lunch counter to be peaceably desegregated in the South. All three of these buildings sit on what was once the west wall of the original Alamo compound.

Integrating these historical layers and structures while creating a world-class museum will be difficult. It’s a tough design problem to be sure, but it’s a challenge I know Machado Silvetti is capable of meeting. In projects around the world, they have demonstrated a creative sensitivity to what others have built while proposing a bold vision for the future.

I’m confident they will find a way to do that here in San Antonio as well.

9 thoughts on “Alamo Museum Architects To Bring Bold Vision, Respect For History

  1. Without proper funding these visions and drawings will simply collect dust for many years. Planning, funding, timelines, and budgets are essential to any successful project. Why are those principles not being discussed. This project deserves more respect.

  2. I’m very sure that Mr. Machado Silvetti and his firm will design the best Museum ever. Also, I hope that that monstrosity aka as The Cenotaph is removed from Alamo plaza…ASAP like. It does not blend in with the 1830s architecture of the Alamo chapel and Long Barrack, aka The Convento. Also a monument to the 70 Mexican soldiers who died defending their homeland should be erected in front of the Alamo chapel as soon as possible, this is way over due!

    • Oh yes and a monument to the unarmed men massacred by the Mexican army at Goliad should be in the plaza. We must not forget a marker denoting General Santa Anna’s birthday in front of the Chapel. Don’t forget to put something up to remember Santa Anna’s sale of his chewing gum recipe to Wrigley. The first raspa stand in the plaza should be shown and LULAC’s first chapter marker needs to be somewhere on the Alamo grounds. So many layers of history!

  3. Awesome information about the Architecture firm. I agree that the story of the Alamo should be told in layers and I like the fact as stated, this firm does that. However, I would like to see more pre-Alamo history. There is so much history that occurred prior to this event. The Battle of Medina in 1813 was one of the bloodiest in Pre-Texas statehood. These stories, I suggest should be part of the layering of the Alamo story. This piece of the story should explain how Tejanos in San Antonio and places in between, lit the fuse to revolution. The story should include the Tejanos that laid down their lives throughout this period. Finally the story should include the fact that many of the Tejanos that lived here after Texas Independence were swindled into giving up their lands by unscrupulous individuals coupled with expensive tax liabilities. The story of our contribution to Texas history as it currently stands is dismal. The new Alamo Museum project allows for the opportunity to tell this story. The time in our tumultuous history has arrived to tell the complete story of Texas.

    • Mr. Jimanez makes a good argument for the museum to be the Texas Independence Museum rather than just the Alamo Museum–covering the entire story of the fight for Texas independence while emphasizing the importance of the Alamo in that history and housing all the Alamo memorabilia that have been donated for it.

  4. From Machado Silvetti, who “merges innovative and contemporary architecture with existing significant structures and historical sites” expect something like Denver Art Museum grounds, The Chazen Museum of Art
    From HKS Architects, Think of La Cantera Resort and Spa landscape outdoors (relaxing & meditative space). Think Texas Christian University’s (TCU) Amon G. Carter Stadium entrance lighting, Think Baptist MD Anderson Cancer Center landscaped courtyard- we hope their design will eventually “heal” the division and controversy of this Alamo renovation project and we can be “delighted” with the end product -provided is not a replicate of arid landscape, concrete, water fountains and benches as Main Plaza. I just hope the end result combined does not look like Briscoe Pavillion and Main Plaza (because we already have such design and Lake Flato in the house- no need to outsource). Still will NEVER UNDERSTAND WHY IF ALAMO, COMMERCE, MARKET & ADJACENT STREETS ARE A TOURIST AREA, WHY IN THE WORLD DO WE HAVE TO CLOSE ALAMO STREET. THINK OF SUGAR LAND TX, TRAFFIC FLOW IN FRONT OF CITY HALL AT SUGAR LAND.

  5. Why can’t they build a Roof and Walls or a building or Dome over and around the Alamo and make it an inside museum that way to protect it from the weather

  6. I am of the opinion that the Getty Villa survived the re-imagination of Machado and Silvetti. There they had almost unlimited financial resources. At the Alamo they are likely to be financial restraints. Probably good for the preservation of the site and its history.

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