Back to TEXAS: Voelcker Park

When people hear I am from San Antonio they often ask if I hope the High Line becomes like the River Walk. The answer is no. The River Walk is designed for tourists, and my dream is that the High Line is first and foremost a well-loved park for New Yorkers that visitors may also enjoy. 



[San Antonio River Walk in the summer and in December]

But San Antonio now has the opportunity to be known for a wholly different kind of public space that’s designed for residents, not tourists, and it makes an inspiring story. 

The last, large tract of undeveloped land just a few miles from downtown’s River Walk was the 311-acre Voelcker Dairy Farm. Most of the property had not been cultivated and looked like the land settlers saw when they first came to the area. Some of the trees there were standing at the time of the Battle of the Alamo — all within the bounds of the tenth largest city in the country.  Plans were in the works to sell the property for housing developments.  Instead the City, at the Mayor’s initiative, bought all 311 acres and set about to preserve the landscape and turn it into Voelcker Park, which will be the city’s largest park.  


[photo from the Voelcker Park website]

And it keeps getting better.  Them they hired the team of Steven Stimson Associates and D.I.R.T Studio to oversee the development of a master plan.  D.I.R.T is led by one of my favorite landscape designers, Julie Bargmann.

Their winning competition entry is after the jump.

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TEXAS is More Interesting Than You Think

I was in Dallas a few weeks ago and learned about a couple of inspiring projects.


[The La Reunion rail trestle outside of Dallas. Photo from their Flickr page]

Utopian re-conquest of  TX
I met a woman named Sarah Jane Semrad, who, along with a crew of activists, is turning a 35-acre site into an Arts Residency with the main building going up around an abandoned train trestle. The project is called La Reunion  after a utopian artists’ colony that settled in Dallas in the 1850s and who brought the first piano, brewery, and cultural sensibilities to North Texas.

More La Reunion photos.

They also have a blog where you can sign up for email updates, and more on the project and its history is after the jump. 

Proved Wrong Again

A year ago I saw Joshua Price Ramos (now with REX) give a presentation about a design for a theater in Dallas he had designed while working with Rem Koolhaas at OMA.  It blew me away, but I put it in the category of “even more unlikely that the High Line” and thought it was the kind of thing that would never get built– especially not in my home state. I love being proved wrong!

This is a shot of the diagonal supports rising out of the ground as part of the beginning of construction of the Wyly Theater.


[rending of Wyly Theater from REX]

Unlike a typical theatre setting, this unique design for the Wyly Theatre places these spaces either above or below the auditorium, enabling maximum interaction and flexibility of performance space and seating. The facility’s advanced mechanized “superfly” system can pull up both scenery and seating.

More design images of the Wyly Theater from REX

Watch the design animation

Live webcam shot of the construction

The theater is part of the larger Dallas Center for the Performing Arts, a new multi-venue Center for music, opera, theater and dance that will open in 2009. Norman Foster and Spencer de Grey designed the Margot and Bill Winspear Opera House that is under construction a stone’s throw from the theater. Total funding total funding for the project exceeds $277 million to date with more than 100 Dallas families and corporations contributing $1 million or more.

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