Bringing A River To The Museum SAMA River Pavilion   |   San Antonio, Texas   |   20,812 SF

With the northward expansion of the San Antonio Riverwalk, this open-air pavilion provides direct access from the river to the San Antonio Museum of Art for the first time since its construction. The pavilion also includes a secured gated entrance and ticket booth, covered spaces for special events, restrooms, staging areas, and shaded areas for enjoyment of the outdoors.

Putting A Museum On The Map
With over 26 million visitors annually, tourism is a major economic generator for the city of San Antonio. But until recently, because of its location outside of San Antonio’s central downtown tourism district, the only viable way for most to get to the San Antonio Museum of Art was by vehicle.

From the museum’s perspective, attracting tourists was always a challenge, particularly with an entrance located on a street with little to no foot traffic and a façade not in a highly visible location. And so museum officials were delighted when they learned that the San Antonio Riverwalk, a favorite tourist destination and thoroughfare, was going to expand to the museum’s neighborhood and northward.

New Opportunities
With the Riverwalk expansion, the museum saw an opportunity to increase their visibility and attendance. The way to do this was to build a second entrance on the river side of the museum. Once an overgrown, rundown muddy area that frequently flooded, the river banks along the back side of the museum were suddenly being improved.  Flood tunnels and locks for riverboats were installed; landscaping was added; and an entirely new dynamic was created. The museum now had an opportunity to attract strollers along the riverwalk, but how would they capture those traveling on the barges that carry tourists on sightseeing tours?  The answer was to enlist Overland to design an attractive river landing and create a second entrance to the museum. “This not only would serve as a new entry but also provide a rooftop water catchment system. Rainwater would travel along an aquaduct to cisterns that would capture water for later use to irrigate the landscape,” explained Tim Blonkvist, Principal in Charge.
Life Along The River
It is now possible for visitors to arrive at the museum from the river level, as barges can dock at the new landing located just a short walk from the museum’s riverside entrance.  Visitors can ascend a ramp landscaped with colorful native vegetation, where they are greeted by a museum receptionist at the ticket booth.  Once inside the pavilion, they walk along a covered path lined with masonry columns that match the stonework of the older buildings. This leads to a small courtyard where visitors will find the doors to the Great Hall, the museum’s central atrium.

A multiuse space, the new pavilion has become a popular setting for museum receptions and special events.  From the pavilion’s terrace, visitors can see the river and the tranquil daily life that surrounds it.   According to Blonkvist, “The river has always been the lifeblood of the city, the thread of grain that unites so many things.  Now it is the thread of grain that unites so many cultural institutions:  the Witte Museum, the Briscoe Museum of Western Art, the historic missions, and the San Antonio Museum of Art.”

Awards
  • AIA San Antonio Design Award Citation Award 2010
  • General Contractors Association Merit Award 2010
  • San Antonio Masonry Contractors Association Golden Trowel Award Honorable Mention Hardscape/Landscape Superior Design 2010
  • Congress for the New Urbanism Charter Award for Best Urbanism Project 2009
Publications
  • AIA San Antonio, “Congress of New Urbanism Honors River North Master Plan,” June 2009

The famed Riverwalk now has greater reach with a major new expansion, linking the heart of the City to even more walkable, rewarding destinations such as the San Antonio Museum of Art.

San Antonio Convention and Visitors Bureau