- Project Name
- Confluence Park
310 W Mitchell St.
- San Antonio River Foundation
- Project Scope
- New Construction
- Year Completed
- Shared by
Bob Harris, Principal
Tenna Florian, Project Manager
Andrew Kudless of Matsys Design, Pavilion Designer
Sunnie Diaz, Project Designer
Jordan Tsai, Project Intern
Other: Pavilion Designer: Matsys Design,Structural Engineer: Architectural Engineers Collaborative,Other: Mechanical: CNG Engineering,Lighting Designer: Mazzetti,Construction contractor: SpawGlass,Other: Petal formwork: Kreysler & Associates,Other: Conceptual Master Plan: Ball-Nogues Studio with Rialto Studio,Landscape Architect: Rialto Studio
- Project Status
From the May 2019 Issue of ARCHITECT:
A park brings ecological education and community engagement to the edges of San Antonio’s riverfront.
For far too long, the southern reaches of the San Antonio River have been overshadowed by the more famous, and more intensely trafficked, stretch that winds through the center city—the famed River Walk created in the 1930s by the Works Progress Administration. Now, finally, a project has taken shape that should start luring some of those crowds out of downtown and into the wilder, less-well-known parts of the waterway: Confluence Park, at the point where the San Antonio meets San Pedro Creek, is a multipurpose public facility activated by a sequence of remarkable structures, designed as a collaboration between local firm Lake|Flato Architects and Oakland, Calif.–based Matsys.
The team placed a series of arching concrete forms—elongated hyperbolic paraboloids that the designers liken to flower petals—on the site of a former open-air storage lot. These shade structures are complemented by a sparely and crisply articulated low-rise education center, with classrooms and events spaces that have proven in high demand since the project’s completion.
Altogether, the scheme satisfies a challenging triple brief, with stakeholders that included the adjacent community (concerned, at first, that the park might compromise their security), the conservators of the river system (who wanted to attract attention to their restoration efforts, without trampling on the delicate ecosystem), and the rest of San Antonio (a city with a diverse social fabric but a paucity of social spaces outside the tourist-clogged core).
In the end, the designers succeeded in catering to all constituencies: Their lofty, elegant, concrete stems act as a portal to the 8-mile natural corridor that runs alongside the site, while the park as a whole furnishes a much-needed amenity to a neighborhood previously cut off by both freeways and the waterways themselves, which are now transformed from barriers into scenic fixtures accessible to all San Antonians.
Project: Confluence Park, San Antonio, Texas
Client: San Antonio River Foundation
Architect: Lake|Flato Architects, San Antonio, and Matsys, Los Angeles . Bob Harris, FAIA (Lake|Flato, partner); Tenna Florian, AIA (Lake|Flato, associate partner); Sunnie Diaz, Assoc. AIA (Lake|Flato, project designer); Jordan Tsai (Lake|Flato, intern); Corey Squire, AIA (Lake|Flato, sustainability manager); Andrew Kudless (Matsys, project team)
M/E/P Engineer: CNG Engineering
Structural Engineer: Architectural Engineers Collaborative
General Contractor: SpawGlass
Landscape Architect: Rialto Studio
Lighting Designer: Mazzetti
Petal Formwork: Kreysler & Associates
Size: 2,000 square feet (education center); 6,000 square feet (pavilion)
Cost: $12.8 million
Materials and Sources
Concrete: Manufacturer: Urban Concrete (concrete subcontractor)
Supplier: Vulcan Materials Co.
Acrylic skylights used on petals: Regal Plastic
Plumbing/Water System: One Texas Water (reclaimed water system)
This project won a 2019 AIA Institute Honor Award in architecture.
Along the bank of the San Antonio River, Confluence Park is a living laboratory designed to broaden its visitors’ understanding of south Texas ecotypes and the impact of urban development on local watersheds. A destination for learning and recreation, the park is a piece of the country’s largest environmental restoration project and an accessible gateway to outdoor activity.
To better serve San Antonio’s most economically challenged communities, the San Antonio River Foundation tasked the design team with transforming a former construction storage yard into a unique outdoor education center The design reflects the idea of confluence—the park is situated at the junction of the San Antonio River and San Pedro Creek—throughout. Grand gestures such as the park’s shaped lands represent the convergence of ecotypes, while the central pavilion’s concrete petal structures draw inspiration from plants that funnel rainwater to their roots. The petals, of which the pavilion boasts 22, stand 26 feet high and form a network of vaults that provide shade from the Texas sun and flow rainwater directly to an underground cistern.
The park is located beside Mission Reach, an eight-mile stretch of the San Antonio River with a riparian woodland ecosystem that connects—via a network of pedestrian trails—the downtown San Antonio River Walk to several south side communities and five UNESCO World Heritage Spanish mission sites. Surrounding homeowners concerned about safety initially balked at idea of the project and asked that adjacent dead-end streets remain fenced off. Throughout construction, foundation representatives canvased entire neighborhoods to provide updates on the park. These interpersonal connections created a groundswell of enthusiasm, and fences were eventually replaced with gates, providing easier access to a new neighborhood amenity.
Early in the design process, the foundation realized it was creating a venue that could easily surpass its intended program. Evolving the design, the team and client trended toward the aspirational to maximize the efforts of local organizations striving to make a positive impact on San Antonio. Since the park opened, in March 2018, the collaborative ethos evident in the foundation’s directives has already made a positive impact on the community. In just a few short months, the park hosted nearly 140 educational events presented by 24 nonprofits which were attended by more than 9,000 registrants.
Confluence Park is a living laboratory that allows visitors to gain a greater understanding of the ecotypes of the South Texas region and the function of the San Antonio River watershed. Throughout the park, visitors learn through observation, engagement and active participation. Located at the confluence of the San Antonio River and San Pedro Creek, the idea of confluence is ingrained in every aspect— from big gestures like the landform of the park representing the convergence of ecotypes in the South Texas region, to thepavilion “petals” imitating the form of plants that are structured to funnel dew and rainwater to their roots, down to the scale of the paver patterns reminiscent of the flow and confluence of waterways. Constructed of concrete petals designed thoughtfully to sit lightly upon the land, the BHP Pavilion— the main pavilion—forms a geometry that collects and funnels rainwater into a sitewide water catchment system. The pavilions throughout the park provide shade and shelter, simultaneously engaging visitors to visualize the cycle of water at Confluence Park and how it relates directly to the San Antonio Rivershed. The multi-purpose Estella Avery Education Center, featuring a green roof that provides thermal mass for passive heating and cooling, serves as a classroom space that opens to the pavilion. Rainwater collected through the site-wide water catchment system serves as the primary source of water throughout the park, and a photovoltaic array on the roof of the multipurpose building is intended to offset 100% of the energy use for the project on a yearly basis.