Mid Tex Mod Hosts US/ICOMOS Pre-Conference Tour


Image details

By Kim McKnight

HemisfairOn a sunny afternoon May 30, Mid Tex Mod hosted a pre-conference tour of San Antonio’s modern heritage as part of the 15th Annual International Scientific Symposium of US/ICOMOS, a leading international heritage conservation organization. Tour participants were delighted to encounter modern resources seldom seen by the casual visitor to San Antonio.

Stephen Fox, architectural historian and Fellow of the Anchorage Foundation of Texas, led a walking tour of Trinity University, designed O’Neil Ford, Bartlett Cocke, with consulting architect William Wurster in 1948. Ford was a preeminent Texas architect and his work is considered highly significant and influential. The rugged site hosts a modern campus that diverges from traditional campus styles with buildings that conform to the sloping contour lines of the site. Especially impressive are the Coates Student Center Building (1952), Frank Murchison Tower (1964), Margarite B. Parker Chapel (1966). Fox discussed Ford’s research into building systems including Youtz-Slick lift slab technology. Further, Fox explained the how Dallas landscape architects Arthur and Marie Berger utilized native plants throughout the campus.
TowerA driving tour to the next site included the Intercontinental Motors (1963) buildings on Broadway Street designed by O’Neil Ford & Associates with the landscape architect Stewart King as well as the Hilton Palacia de Río (1968) designed by Cerna & Garza. The 500-room pre-fabricated hotel was designed, completed and occupied in an unprecedented period of 202 working days.
The complex and multifaceted HemisFair ’68, the world’s fair site in downtown San Antonio, provided an interesting counter-balance to the largely unified campus of Trinity University. University of Texas professor and Brazilian architect Fernando Luiz Lara discussed the influence of Pan-Americanism on art and architecture of HemisFair, which declared, “Confluence of Cultures” as its theme.
TourA highlight of the tour included a walk by the Confluence Theater (1968) designed by Marmon & Mok Associates. The building was re-purposed as the John H. Wood, Jr. Federal courthouse a few years after the fair. Its future is presently in question. The tour ended with a trip to the observation deck of the Tower of the Americas (1968), designed by Ford, Powell, Carson and a centerpiece of the HemisFair ’68 complex. Tour participants were delighted by the panoramic view of San Antonio from the 750’ high tower. Architect Stuart Johnson, who serves as Preservation Field Representative at the San Antonio Conservation Society and National Trust for Historic Preservation, discussed the preservation community’s concerns about the potential threat to the modern resources of HemisFair with future redevelopment scenarios.
Docomomo US/Mid Tex Mod is dedicated to raising awareness of the Modern Movement in Central Texas and the value of documentation, preservation, and sustained use of buildings, sites, neighborhoods, landscapes, and other manifestations of modernism. Visit http://midtexasmod.blogspot.com/ for more information.