Alamo Master Plan renderings with commentary from David Lake.
Alamo Master Plan renderings with commentary from David Lake. Credit: Courtesy / David Lake

All the citizens in our city and our state want a transformative Alamo Plaza plan to succeed.  

To be a vital destination for everyone, it is equally important to have the plaza be a dynamic and welcoming civic space as it has been for the past 200 years. The Alamo Area Experience Guiding Principles state: “Enhance connectivity and wayfinding to the river, neighborhoods, La Villita, the cathedral and the other plazas.”

Mission courtyards were the center of community activity and Misión San Antonio de Valero’s must remain a part of ours: open, welcoming, and inclusive. The fourth theme of the Alamo Plaza Guidelines states: “The Alamo Area Experience has evolved over more than 300 years and continues to be a community gathering place.”

The plaza, as it is currently envisioned with a glass wall separating the Alamo grounds from the rest of the city, creates a walled destination for Alamo visitors and inhibits the use of the space for the public. We feel that the plaza should be both a historic place and a vibrant public space fully connected to the city “to continue to be a community gathering place.  The City must undertake a broader study of downtown’s streets and plazas, implementing a solution that keeps downtown connected north to south and east to west for vehicles, bikes, and pedestrians.

Alamo Master Plan renderings with commentary from David Lake.
Alamo Master Plan renderings with commentary from David Lake. Click to enlarge.

Alamo Plaza should be a memorable place for citizens to return to again and again – A place that strengthens our city.

We urge City Council to approve the master plan conditional on the plaza remaining a connected civic space rather than a controlled-access outdoor museum. The plaza must be a welcoming and integral part of our city, as envisioned by the guidelines.

The master plan process should enable citizens of the city and state, together with stakeholders, to thoughtfully consider these shortcomings and shape a plan which ultimately creates the vibrant heart our downtown deserves. For more than 200 years, the Alamo and the plaza have been shaping our community and our citizens. The Alamo is truly the heart and soul of our city, welcoming everyone to honor our history and our vibrant culture.

Here are the Master Plan Guidelines and our notes on elements which the plan does not address (click here to download):

Guiding Principles (8)

(Three of the principles have not been met by the master plan.)

  1. Preservation and interpretation based on historical and archaeological evidence. (The north wall south of Houston Street is not located where the north wall was. The west acequia as shown is well east of the original west acequia.)
  2. Embrace the continuum of history to foster understanding and healing. (The current plan goes back to 1836 and does not consider the many cultural, historic, and civic uses of the plaza.)
  3. Enhance connectivity and wayfinding to the river, neighborhoods, La Villita, the cathedral, and the other plazas. (Connectivity is terminated by the arbitrary non-historic north wall location and restricts access.   More openings in the wall will not provide access at all hours and the wall limits pedestrian/bike access.)

Themes and Goals (4)

Each of the four themes is followed by primary and secondary goals. (Three of the eight primary goals are not met by the master plan.)

Primary (Impact)

  1. Include a document that gives the background information on the more than 300 years of history of the Alamo Plaza site. (The current plan focuses on Alamo Plaza in 1836 and disrupts the history and use of the plaza post-1836.)
  2. Interpret the Alamo so visitors understand its location on the battlefield. (See Theme A.)
  3. Develop and implement a comprehensive transportation, circulation, and parking plan to accommodate accessibility while exerting minimal negative impact on the visitor experience in the Alamo area. (Where is the comprehensive traffic and circulation plan?)

THEME A: The evolution of settlements and cultures around the Alamo area. (The master plan creates new walls to the north and a west acequia which are not in historic locations and confuse the integrity of the battlefield.) 

THEME B: Tell the story of the 1836 Battle of the Alamo

(The master plan creates new walls to the north and a west acequia which are not in historic locations and confuse the integrity of the battlefield.)

Goal 3: Provide ways to understand the geography of the battlefield site

  1. Visitors of all ages will gain an understanding of the physical space, geography, and context of the Alamo compound, including the interpretation of important geography and locations:
  • The topography and geography of the Alamo Compound in relation to the Villa de Béjar, acequias, wells, cemetery, field, housing, etc.
  • The physical structures and layout of the Alamo compound. (The arbitrary location of the north wall and the west acequia disrupt the plaza’s original character implying a much smaller space, which is not historically accurate.)

THEME C: The Alamo area is a place of remembrance, honor, and respect 

THEME D: The Alamo area experience has evolved over more than 300 years and continues to be a community gathering place.

(The walls exclude the community and disrupt connectivity, creating a place for visitors but inflexible to events that occur today. In this plan, it is no longer a community gathering place.)

Goal 1. Present what the Alamo area looked like over the different periods of its more than 300 years of history. (Post 1836 Alamo Plaza is frozen in time and bounded by fake walls, ignoring the history of the plaza as a significant civic and cultural place.)

Include:

  1. Secularization of the mission, shops opened in the structures of the west and south sides of the Plaza
  2. Evolution and expansion of the civil settlement
  3. The beginning of urbanization (1880-1900)

Goal 3. Review historic and current commercial ventures in the Alamo Plaza area and ensure future commerce and programming honors, respects, and complements the area. (The plan honors Alamo Plaza in 1836 not the history of commerce in the plaza post-1836.)

(The walls exclude the community and disrupt connectivity, creating a place for visitors but inflexible to events that occur today. In this plan, it is no longer a community gathering place.)

As drawn, the master plan features:

  1. The glass wall north of plaza does not conform to the archaeological evidence of the historic wall which was located north of this location (wall was within the historic courthouse building). This is confusing to the visitor experience. It keeps pedestrians and possible traffic from entering the north from Houston Street and North Alamo Street.
  2. Acequia at west side of plaza does not conform to archaeological evidence of the historic location of the acequia (which was located further west). This confuses the visitors’ experience and compromises the importance of the original acequias which were located east of the Alamo and west of the proposed west acequia location.
David Lake

David Lake

David Lake, FAIA, lives in Alamo Heights and co-founded Lake|Flato in 1984. A native of Austin and a University of Texas graduate, David has built his career around merging regional and environmental design...