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“A place that fits” San Antonio: Civic Park at Hemisfair

Civic Park at Hemisfair Park is a gesture of community spirit: our “giant front porch.”
Detail at The Springs: shallow pools flow through limestone block “balcones.”
History overlapping: Legacy Victorian-era building on Hemisfair campus.
An allée of Mexican Sycamore trees shading the Springs.
Meant for everybody: families love the Promenade and Springs wading pools
A nod to our centuries-old acequia system, rendered in limestone block.

Located in downtown San Antonio, a city known for hosting tens of millions of out-of-town visitors each year, Civic Park is a place for locals to enjoy and mingle with visitors – San Antonio’s “front porch.”

The Park is designed to be a “place that fits” San Antonio’s life, character, and vision. The landscape design celebrates San Antonio’s unique place at the intersection of the Texas Hill County, Blackland Prairie, and South Texas Plains, and our “two-story downtown” of street and river levels. The Park’s gentle landforms and elegantly executed masonry interpret San Antonio’s centuries-old history with water engineering, and conservation – and, our world-famous flair for throwing community parties.

Hemisfair Area Redevelopment Corporation (HPARC) and City of San Antonio
7 acres
Phase One: opened 2023
Phase Two: scheduled competition 2025

Collaged ideas – Hill Country springs, ancient acequias, and urban promenade.
Collaged ideas – Hill Country springs, ancient acequias, and urban promenade.

Redevelopment Vision for Hemisfair: Master Planning and Architecture

Hemisfair ’68 marked a cultural turning point for San Antonio; memories and architectural artifacts of our World’s Fair are still a nostalgic source of local identity. But for decades after the Fair, a hodgepodge of exposition buildings and historic structures were underutilized and poorly maintained. The City formed HPARC in 2009 to reimagine Hemisfair Park, and to create ways of funding programming and maintenance. In 2014, the City engaged the nationally-known landscape architecture firm GGN and Alamo Architects to design Civic Park together.

“Civic Park fulfills a dream that began in the early 1960’s to build a great park in San Antonio that would attracts local and visitors to enjoy downtown.”  – Irby Hightower, FAIA

Master Planning:
Through concept and schematic design phases, we acted as GGN’s “tour guide” to what makes San Antonio such a special place. Together, we then established urban design guidelines for the Private Public Partnership parcels integrating future buildings into the park. This economic development is crucial to HPARC’s ongoing ability to fund free events for the people of San Antonio.

The landscape plan for Civic Park at Hemisfair consists of five areas: The Great Lawn for relaxing and events; The Promenade, a place for an evening stroll connecting Civic Park to the City and the two other parks in Hemisfair; The Springs, a place to cool down on a hot day; The Zocalo, the Park’s urban plaza and informal stage; and Source Plaza, where the Park and City intersect – celebrating San Antonio’s gift for water engineering and conservancy.

Architecture: Amenity Building

Given its strong commitment to water conservation and the demands put on turf used for event lawns, the Park requires an extensive water conservation and irrigation system to store and recycle nuisance water from the adjacent Convention Center. In addition, water elements featured heavily throughout require control and pump rooms. And (not surprisingly), public process identified public restrooms as an important amenity. Through most of the design process, these two very important but different functions were to be housed in privately developed buildings surrounding the Park. However, scheduling issues pushed those projects into a future phase of development. Accordingly, we were engaged to design the standalone Amenity Building, combining both water handling equipment and public restrooms.

We saw our architectural design challenge as two-part: 1) providing required functionality, and 2) creating a structural element in close harmony with the Park’s design. Intentionally, the Amenity Building slips subtly into the Great Lawn’s landform along an edge. Addressing our South Texas climate, the wood clad roof acts as an airfoil to pull air through the outdoor restrooms, adding to Park sustainability. The cantilevered roof floats above limestone walls that gradually “erode,” a nod to the Park’s Hill County-inspired limestone “balcones,” or limestone plinths. The roof soars out beyond the building, creating a shady porch on one of the balcones at the intersection of two main park paths.

The Amenity Building adds functionality without disrupting the subtle beauty of the Park’s elegant landscape design. It contributes as a true park building – adding not just utility, but a sense of substance and delight – adding to the Park’s unique sense of place.

This place [Civic Park] is a haven for everyone seeking a break from the hustle and bustle of city life.

Mayor Ron Nirenberg

Project Team

Consultants

Landscape Architect | Gustafson Guthrie Nichol (GGN)
Civil | Magnusson Klemencic Associates (primary) and Vickrey & Associates
MEP | CNG Engineering
Structural | IES

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