CURRENTS & EDDIES
The historic San Antonio River defines and connects the fabric of the city. Each year the world-renowned River Walk draws millions of visitors. Yet, miles of urban river with untapped potential lie beyond downtown and the famed Paseo del Rio. In 2004, the City of San Antonio’s Public Art Design and Enhancement program recognized the need for an Art Plan for the San Antonio River in association with the San Antonio River Improvements Project. The Art Plan addresses 13 miles of the San Antonio River to the north and south of the Downtown area.
Public Art Master Plan Vision The City of San Antonio SARIP Art Master Plan conceives of the river—its habitats, natural processes, infrastructure, pathways, connections, gathering places, and events—as a metaphorical and physical system of currents, eddies, and confluences providing unexpected and changing experiences. Artworks build upon the physical and metaphorical qualities of the river to yield an exquisite multidimensional flow. A stream of poetic narratives weaves throughout the river environment celebrating San Antonio’s imagination, history, authenticity, diversity, ecology, innovation, festivals, ritual, and craft. The resulting art network becomes both stage set and player in the unfolding drama of the city’s urban ecology. This network of systems, sites, and events triggers internal emotions and narratives.
Art Project Scales The San Antonio River can be considered a large social sculpture experienced at a variety of levels—from large system to intimate encounter. Human manipulations of and interactions with the river—natural, cultural, and technological—also occur at a variety of scales. To express an aesthetic about these experiences and interactions, art projects are conceived at four scales: system, reach, segment, and site/event. This reflects the diverse ways that artists think and work. With a dynamic art network of projects weaving together at different scales, one can perceive the river as a large system while experiencing an intimate encounter. Educational and temporary projects weave throughout the project to enhance the understanding of the river’s multidimensional flow.
Conceptual Designs & Beyond Along the length of the San Antonio River, a system-scale program of integrated projects brings diverse expressions of water and placemaking into focus. Places and experiences highlight the rich layering of events, forces, influences, and materials that have or will affect the river. Projects reflect human history as well as the language and origin of the river—its ecology, and its role in shaping the natural landscape and biology of the region. The projects are ecological enhancements; memory theaters; river connections; places for celebrations and events; and outdoor classrooms. The Art Plan contains conceptual designs for two pilot projects within this system-scale program: the “Grotto Theater” in the Museum Reach and the “Confluence Theater” in the Mission Reach. The projects complement one another and work as a piece.
The Art Plan is a vision document. Over the course of 30 years, projects of various scales and types are developed, weaving a rich, aesthetic tapestry of artworks into the fabric of the river and city. Local, national, and international artists are engaged in the process of creating artworks throughout the river environment. Many projects include educational components that connect youth to the river and its ecology.
PROJECT CREDITS: Lorna Jordan, Planning and Design Team Leader With Bender Wells Clark Design & Winterbottom Design
Prepared for the City of San Antonio in cooperation with the San Antonio River Authority and the San Antonio River Oversight Committee