Public Art on San Pedro Creek to Honor Native History, Military

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Courtesy / Muñoz and Company & San Antonio River Authority

Preliminary renderings include a star to honor San Antonio’s military presence.

With construction on the first segment of the San Pedro Creek Project currently underway, artists and designers working with lead architectural developer Muñoz and Company are envisioning public art and design ideas for the remaining segments of the two-mile long creek.

The project is divided into four distinct phases. Bexar County Commissioners reviewed and approved designs proposed for the second segment of the project’s first phase on Tuesday.

“We’ve got the first phase from the inlet at Fox Tech [High School] up to Houston Street nailed down,” Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff said. “We know what we’re seeing there, we know the artwork we’re doing there, and now we’re talking about going from Houston Street up to César Chávez Boulevard, and it’s looking really good to me.”

The San Pedro Creek Improvements Project is a $175 million endeavor to turn the concrete-lined drainage ditch into an economically vibrant linear park where cultural and historic artworks complement municipal efforts to create better flood control capabilities and revitalized natural habitats. The San Antonio River Authority is managing the project, and the County is financing it.

Courtesy / Muñoz and Company & San Antonio River Authority

This map shows locations for public art installations between Houston Street and César Chávez Boulevard.

While a key component of the project is finding ways to better utilize the creek, another is to reintroduce the city to the creek’s historic and cultural significance.

“This is a project that’s built off of the involvement of artists and historians in collaboration with planners, designers, and architects,” said Henry Muñoz, CEO of Muñoz and Company.

“The wonderful thing about the entire project is that it takes stories that have never been told about who we are as a community and it creates spaces out of them,” he said.

Muñoz presented the latest conceptual art renderings to Commissioners, who gave their preliminary approval Tuesday. However, these ideas must be further refined and approved individually by the Commissioners Court before construction begins.

Details on the design of the forthcoming amphitheater, to be located behind the Alameda Theater, were shown during the presentation. Local artist Michael Menchaca designed the tiles that will line benches situated in and around the amphitheater. Menchaca used patterns found inside the Alameda as inspiration for his designs.

One of the larger concepts proposed is for an area tentatively named Tejano Plaza. The demolition of a Dollar General, formerly the site of the Woolworth Building, opened up a space that could celebrate one of the key cultural influences in San Antonio. Some consider San Antonio the Tejano music capital of the world, and Muñoz and Company proposed dedicating the design of a new sunken garden to an instrument prevalent in that musical genre.

The proposed entrance to the creekside garden is shaped similarly to the stretching body of an accordion. Arcs create that body and are colored with glittering car paints that match those used to paint the instrument. Seats are shaped like the buttons found on the instrument’s body.

Glass-cast faces will be featured underneath the Dolorosa Street Bridge with a small waterfall descending in front of them. The faces are meant to represent weeping women, symbolizing lives lost in the Battle of Medina in 1813.

Luminarias will be located on each of the bridges stretching over the creek. Each will have a unique design inspired by stories or influences pertaining to the bridge.

The custom-made luminaria for the Dolorosa Street Bridge will follow the solemn theme with tear-shaped chimes inside the luminaria’s body creating musical sounds.

An expansive wall between Nueva and Dolorosa streets is reserved for some of the project’s poetic elements. Above short poetic verses written by local author and filmmaker John Phillip Santos is the slogan Libertatis Cunabula, which translates to “cradle of liberty.”

Santos wrote the mythical opera Las Fundaciones de Béjar, which portrayed the history and legacy of the San Pedro Creek, specifically for the creek’s groundbreaking celebration in September 2016.

Courtesy / Muñoz and Company & San Antonio River Authority

A wall between Nueva and Dolorosa streets features poetry by local author John Phillip Santos.

The area will also pay homage to José Antonio Navarro, whose historic home Casa Navarro is located nearby. Navarro and his uncle José Francisco Ruiz were the only native Texans among 59 men whose signatures ended up on the Texas Declaration of Independence, playing into the cradle of liberty theme.

“We’ve spent a lot of time going over all of that and trying to make sure we get the history right,” Wolff said. “[It is important] that we tell the story of ‘Military City, USA,’ what it’s meant to San Antonio, and how it changed our way of living here.”

The stretch between Nueva and Graham streets is dedicated to commemorating the military influence and its continued presence in San Antonio. One proposal, mulled over in particular detail by the commissioners, is a symbolic military star.

Courtesy / Muñoz and Company & San Antonio River Authority

Preliminary renderings include a star to honor San Antonio’s military presence.

Commissioners joked about its potential to be perceived as a piñata or the Dallas Cowboys’ logo. Commissioner Kevin Wolff (Pct. 3) broke through the levity with a positive affirmation of its presence above the bridge.

The Graham Street Bridge is also likely to receive designs featuring military influences. Renderings show review stands on either side, which would be located near the forthcoming development of the new Federal Courthouse. Vegetation encasements and seating areas would be colored after U.S. Military medal ribbons.

The presentation concluded with a reimagined design for the César Chávez Bridge. Eagles being symbolic of Mexico, the United States, and Spain, as well as the United Farm Workers founded by César Chávez, designers plan to incorporate them with other nearby military symbols.

A structure similar to a descending awning is an abstract modernist representation of an eagle’s wingspan. The colors are subject to change pending further review and consideration.

As of Tuesday, the first segment of the project’s first phase is still set to be completed by May of 2018 in time for the city’s Tricentennial celebrations. While the project’s final completion is still a ways away, the new renderings give an idea to the shape that future construction will take on in the months to come.

“We got more work to do, but it’s beginning to come together,” Judge Wolff said.

12 thoughts on “Public Art on San Pedro Creek to Honor Native History, Military

  1. As the previous incarnation of San Pedro Creek “Art” presented to the public went off the rails with waaaay too much cheeseball ornamentation – let us not forget nature – trees, flora, calm, shade, water! Mr. Munoz loves to “decorate” – can we not find a healthy balance here?

  2. I am so excited for all this! Thank you for the review and visuals. I trust it will be a good mix of nature and public art. I know when I travel down the Museum read section of the River Walk I am giddy every time I come across each public art piece. I expect San Pedro Creek will also stir the soul into not only creating a fantastic people-centric walk which will provide shade and another way to get to A + B but a place to linger and learn about San Antonio and where we’ve been and the project as a whole will show where we are heading. Good Work all!!!!
    -Carye, the Museum Lady

  3. My question is: Will there be security posted along the San Pedro Creek route? I know this sounds mean, but who or what will keep the homeless from using this route as a public restroom? I’m a retired city employee who worked at the Metropolitan Health District building which borders the San Pedro Creek. On numerous occasions, I along with other employees saw the homeless relieving themselves in the creek, some that had mental problems screaming and even some walking naked through the creek. This beautiful area will need strict security to keep things like this from happening.

  4. This is absolutely hideous and tacky and completely opposite of the green plans submitted for approval. The architect basically used the public art as a workaround to slip in the tacky crap the locals protested in his initial design. This is such a disaster.

  5. Bob, can you please do an opinion piece about how off the rails this project has become? It worked the first time! San Antonio is constantly getting in its own way. Frankly, it’s demoralizing for those of us trying to make a change and be better than this.

  6. This public art seems a bit tacky. Accordion inspired art? A Dallas cowboys star? I don’t think these projects will age well at all. 20 years from now people will say “what were they thinking?”

  7. I didn’t realize 1990’s shopping mall kitsch was back in style. Do visitors get a free pair of Girbaud Jeans of maybe a Hyper Color shirt for stopping by any of these “art” installations? I know these are preliminary renderings but many of these approaches seem amateurish and thrown together.

  8. Amateur hour. With all the money pouring into this, can’t we afford to get some decent art? Even then, why is there a need for this much art? It seems to me the priority ($ and focus) should be on the overall design and engineering. The art should be temporary and if permanent, should be sparing. The idea is to let future development paint the canvas, not litter a 3 mile creek with Lisa Frank design rejects. I think everyone (apart from the designer) would prefer trees to this…

  9. There is a big difference between art and illustration. What is presented here are designs by Muñoz and Company, debated by authorities who have no formal art training, and then given to “artists” like a coloring book.

    To make it “symbolic” of the process it is then reported on by a political science major.

    “Eagles being symbolic of Mexico, the United States, and Spain, as well as the United Farm Workers founded by César Chávez, designers plan to incorporate them with other nearby military symbols. A structure similar to a descending awning is an abstract modernist representation of an eagle’s wingspan. The colors are subject to change pending further review and consideration.”

    Had a nice morning laugh over that.

    So many great examples throughout the United States (as well as Texas) on how to do this right. And nobody on this design team is even professional enough to let go of their “vision” and seek some creative answers and designs to compliment this wonderful project.

  10. I dont hear anything about doing something for the 1817 alamo construction at san pedro creek being one of the alamo staging births before they moved it to alamo plaza around the 1850’s

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