On April 13, PdA co-hosted a public design charrette with the AIA's Emerging Professionals Committee. Local architects and planners spent the day at the AIA's Center for Architecture at the Pearl imagining radical new futures for the brutalist-era buildings in HemisFair, the site of the 1968 World's Fair. Situated in the heart of San Antonio, the former fairground is in the process of a major redevelopment that will restore residences and street life to the former neighborhood. While the historic buildings that an earlier generation of preservationists sought to save from "urban renewal" are safe this time around, early proposals for the makeover suggested demolishing former fair pavilions that currently house the UTSA Institute of Texan Cultures and the John H. Wood federal courthouse (as well as the federal building located next to the courthouse, which was not part of the fair).
Since then, the San Antonio Conservation Society has renewed its efforts to obtain historic designation for the buildings, and Andres Andujar, CEO of the HemisFair Park Area Redevelopment Corporation, has said his organization will respect that process. But that leaves the question of how to adapt these large, imposing structures to a new life in an age that favors accessibility over impact.
Andujar participated in the charrette process with a detailed presentation on HPARC's progress, and the Conservation Society supported the effort by donating the use of the former Alaskan Palace at 102 Navarro for a two-week exhibition of the results. District 1 Councilman Diego Bernal attended a reception for the participants April 16, where he said that what he thought would be a nice exercise for local talent had actually opened up the discussion of these buildings' potential – just what the project's co-sponsors had in mind.
You can download PDFs of the proposals here: