Architectural and design renderings can be a powerful tool when trying to communicate a vision for what something should become.
But what would that “interpretation” look like?
Councilmember Roberto Treviño (D1) has an idea – an idea made tangible through the art of computerized rendering.
As an architect, Treviño has the ability to create visuals out of suggestions and concepts. He did just that for the case of the sculpture in the downtown park in District 1 that honors fallen Confederate soldiers. Two preliminary renderings show what he calls, an “elegant solution” to the local debate.
What if instead of simply, “Lest we forget / Our Confederate dead,” the statue had more context? What if profiles of local civil rights leaders and the movement’s progress surrounded the statue? How about a more complete history of Texas’ and San Antonio’s long history with slavery – even before the Civil War?
That might look something like this:
“The point is to talk about what really happened regarding Texas, slavery, and the civil war,” Treviño said Monday. “The (Battle of the) Alamo essentially was about slavery, too, but that’s not a popular story to tell.”
Travis Park is named for Col. William Barrett Travis, the slave-owning commander of the Texan troops at the Alamo.
Instead of removing evidence of what some would consider a racist and embarrassing era, “we can try to have the important conversation,” he said, “about where we came from, where we are now, and where we’re going … in a better direction.”
In response to national backlash against Confederate flags and symbols on public property in the wake of the Charleston church murders committed by a racist gunman, communities across the country have begun to reevaluate what message these symbols are sending to current and future generations by seemingly honoring a past wrought with slavery and racism.
Nationally, countless Confederate memorials have been vandalized, initiated in part by South Carolina’s removal of the Confederate Flag from its capitol’s grounds. Many communities and lawmakers have debated the all-out removal of Confederate symbols, others, like the Bexar County Commissioner’s Court, have already decided to do so.
Treviño said his renderings of a possibly renamed “Travis Memorial Park” are not an endorsement of keeping all Confederate symbols in public spaces, but “I don’t think tearing down history is a good approach.”
Councilmember Alan Warrick II (D2) sent a letter to Mayor Ivy Taylor in July requesting that a task force be formed to seek out and review any Confederate monuments and flags located in public places throughout the city. Taylor tasked City staff with the creation of a report and suggested interpretation and signage as an alternative to removal.
Warrick, along with several other council members, are supportive of the dialogue and action Treviño’s renderings depict.
“I think it’s really going to be a situation where we can highlight a number of different eras in San Antonio’s history as well as (reinforce the promise that) never again will the Confederate ideals be what we honor and revere,” Warrick said.
He understands the urge to simply get rid of all Confederate symbols, he said, “but I also think this idea can set us apart from these other cities … really all I wanted to do is look at the conversation. I’m so glad that something so positive came out of this.”
What would tearing down the sculpture say about us? Warrick asked rhetorically: What will new generations think of that decision – or will they even have the chance to think of it all?
Whatever messaging ends up on the plaques, which could be funded by City public art funds or philanthropic donations, will likely be up for intense community discussion. There are a lot of stories that intersect at Travis Park – some from voices that always get heard and many that have never had a chance, Warrick said.
“(The message should) bring us closer to unity throughout the different parts of our city … it should demonstrate that we’re working in the right direction.”
*Featured/top image: A preliminary rendering of what Travis Park could become, “Travis Memorial Park,” at night. Rendering by Councilmember Roberto Treviño.