A sign welcomes visitors to Alamo Plaza. Credit: Nicholas Frank / Rivard Report

In late February 1836, Mexican Army troops arrived in San Antonio to begin the siege of the Alamo that would lead to the famous battle. By late February 2024, reenactors of La Gran Marcha del Ejército Mexicano will arrive to a redesigned Alamo plaza, complete with a relocated and restored Cenotaph, and a new Alamo museum designed by an internationally known architect.

The schedule might ultimately change, said Councilman Roberto Treviño (D1), but plans are on track for the Alamo Management Committee to choose an architectural firm from among six  candidates.

“We’ve interviewed the six and hope to have a public statement on the selection here very soon,” Treviño said, just days before the annual reenactments – a staple of the signature World Heritage site – begin.

An architect of record, which handles on-site construction after the design is completed, will be chosen from among a slate of Texas-based firms, Treviño said, and will join landscape design firms already at work on the plaza redesign, in concert with the Texas General Land Office (GLO).

The GLO oversees the Alamo, having been granted a 50-year ground lease by the City of San Antonio Planning Commission last October. During the same session in which that approval was granted, the Historic Design and Review Commission (HDRC) approved the plaza redesign and Cenotaph relocation.

At this early stage, the only visible changes to the plaza are a welcome center informational kiosk stationed on the plaza, and signs banning all but pedestrian foot traffic – part of the more “reverential” atmosphere intended for the redeveloped site, as Treviño has described it.

It remains unclear whether historic buildings along Alamo Street would be preserved and incorporated into the new museum design, or demolished to make way for a new building. The Texas Historical Commission and HDRC will ultimately guide a decision on the historic buildings, which depends in part on structural and historical integrity of the structures.

While some elements of the redesign have provoked controversy, in particular the closure of Alamo Street, limiting free public access to the plaza, and relocation of the Cenotaph, Treviño offered assurances that the eventual redesign will create more unity than division.

“By unifying the site the way we’re promoting and pushing, the storytelling is going to be enhanced,” he said, citing the site-specificity of historical reenactments and events like the annual Battle of Flowers parade.

“We’re going to demonstrate how the space was perceived and how it actually was in 1836, and in other periods as well. For these reenactors, they will now have a more accurate representation of the site itself.”

As an architect, Treviño is most excited about the prospects the new Alamo museum and visitor center will bring to the site’s storytelling imperative.

“With a museum of this caliber, we will truly tell a complete story,” he said, “that is going to be our story here in San Antonio. A comprehensive telling of the history of the site, the battle, and of course, the evolution of the site itself,” which has gone through many changes over the decades.

Importantly, the redesign establishes “a new trajectory that is more in line with the vision and guiding principles that we established four years ago,” he said, referring to work he and fellow members of the Citizen’s Advisory Committee and the Alamo Management Committees, which steered the redevelopment plans.

The La Gran Marcha del Ejército Mexicano reenactment takes place Saturday, Feb. 23, from 10-11 a.m. in the Alamo Plaza. More information is available here. The Grand March is part of the 183rd anniversary commemoration, which runs Feb. 23 through Mar. 6. More information on the commemoration is available here.

Nicholas Frank

Nicholas Frank

Nicholas Frank moved from Milwaukee to San Antonio following a 2017 Artpace residency. Prior to that he taught college fine arts, curated a university contemporary art program, toured with an indie rock...