Here’s the Design for San Antonio’s New River Barge

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METALAB's river barge design won the AIA San Antonio/City of San Antonio design competition. Rendering courtesy of METALAB.

METALAB's river barge design won the AIA San Antonio/City of San Antonio design competition. Rendering courtesy of METALAB.

The River Barge design by Houston-based Metalab has been selected by a panel of jurors as the winner of the International River Barge Design Competition and, pending City Council approval, will be cruising the bends of the San Antonio River by the city's Tricentennial celebrations in 2018. The new barges will replace the decades-old design that has been in on the river since HemisFair '68.

Metalab will receive $20,000. The runner up, Luna Architecture + Design from San Antonio with Lay Pitman & Associates from Neptune Beach, Fla., will receive $10,000 and the third place $5,000-prize will go to Austin artists and architects Sadi Brewton and Jonathan Davies.

"Metalab’s versatile design allows for modular deck components that can accommodate a variety of uses," according to a news release. The barge design increases legroom and wheelchair accessibility and the materials used will reduce ongoing maintenance. All submissions included electric motors.

The barges will accommodate tours, dining cruises, river parades, and commuters on the San Antonio River, but the designers suggested several other uses in their proposal as well including yoga classes, concerts, play pens for kids, and more.

"(The new barge) will be another one of those great, iconic images of our city," said Councilman Roberto Treviño. "It's truly a very modular design that we can do so many different things with ... new capacities that we haven't considered before."

The jury reviewed three finalist designs this week, which were narrowed down from 12 submissions in February. The competition was organized by the City of San Antonio and the local chapter of the American Institute of Architects (AIA San Antonio) and represents the continuation of a collaborative approach to design projects in the city. After the City and AIA San Antonio complete the Stinson Airport design competition in December 2015, "we had the perfect model already in place," Treviño said.

(Read More: Winning Design for New Stinson Air Field Control Tower)

The panel of 11 jurors included "internationally-recognized architects and engineers as well as local community leaders, artists, hospitality industry representatives, and designers providing technical to artistic input."

Graphic courtesy of the City of San Antonio. Click to enlarge.

Graphic courtesy of the City of San Antonio. Click to enlarge.

City Council will consider the design in late April. With approval, which Treviño is confident in, a test barge will be released onto the San Antonio River in early 2017 to make sure it works.

"Like with any design, it has to be worked out. It’s one thing to conceptualize it’s a whole other story once you get it in the water,” Treviño said. "There will be improvements made (to the design) all the way up until it's set into the water in 2018."

If approved, between 40 and 50 barges will be purchased by the City. Requests for proposals for manufacturing and 10-year operation contracts are expected to be released in May 2016. The current fleet, most of which were built in 1995 and modeled after the HemisFair design, is owned and operated by Rio San Antonio Cruises. Under the new system, the City will own the barges.

“We are impressed with the caliber of responses and appreciate each team’s dedication to the competition evidenced in their innovative design concepts,” stated Christine Viña, AIA San Antonio president. “AIA San Antonio looks forward to future opportunities to partner with the City of San Antonio in this creative approach to addressing design issues in our city.”

The offices of Metalab have closed early on Friday to celebrate the win, according to AIA San Antonio staff.  Calls made to their offices by the Rivard Report were not returned by deadline.



Top image: Metalab's river barge design won the AIA San Antonio/City of San Antonio design competition. Rendering courtesy of Metalab.

Related Stories:

Public Weighs in on River Barge Design Finalists

Which River Barge Would You Like To Ride In? 

Three Finalists Emerge in River Barge Design Competition

BYOBroadway: An Open Competition to Design a Great Street

Design Challenge: Reimagining San Antonio River Walk Barges

31 thoughts on “Here’s the Design for San Antonio’s New River Barge

  1. Im shocked and saddened that this award did not go to the local firm. Not only for their fantastic design but also to keep this contract local. It’s almost an embarrassment for our city. We have so many talented design firms but so many of our high profile projects keep leaving our local talent out of the picture. #ContractLocal

  2. Not seeing the magic at all… Reminded me immediately of the Old Man`s easy chair quip about the Salerno Landing. How he reversed engines so hard and fast on his Landing Craft ,the Navy wanted to try him for desertion…

  3. My vote would have been for Luna architects but for their design not necessarily because their local. The color palette for the winning design needs improvement, looks like muted Fiesta colors. Metalab was my second choice, but I’m thinking some changes will definitely be done when the final product comes out. Honestly thought local guys had it, hope metalab improves on color, materials and some type on lumination above water. Like the leg room though! Overall OK with the new design just glad to see a new fleet come on board!

  4. How come nobody from the downtown tourist industry was truly involved? Why not ask some of the boat drivers their ideas? Seems like the people who know the boats the most were never actually involved.

  5. I think these are the perfect choice–a modern look with classic SA flavor. Completely melds with our city. Great job selection committee–y’all had a tough job! Nay Sayers would have come out no matter who you selected.

  6. I can’t believe they picked a PILL!!! From Houston!!! And it’s UGLY!!!! Luna looked like SAT. Who’s doing the picking??? And not picking the local architecture firm for the Alamo??? Who’s doing the choosing???

  7. Good thing METALAB’s web site shows a version of a barge with a cover. During our barge ride last summer, we were pelted with large and wet bird droppings, we had to use the t-shirts our out of town guests had purchased to wipe off the mess.

  8. For the people talking smack about this selection, I encourage you to look at the other two options. Those were both illuminated, gaudy designs that did not reflect that this is 2016, not 1982. While this design does not get me excited, I thought it was by far the best of the options and the least tacky. Not everything has to be a darn “Fiesta” theme in this city. Geez.

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