A Metaphor For Preserving Life South Texas Blood & Tissue Center   |   San Antonio, Texas   |   200,000 GSF

Since 1973, The South Texas Blood & Tissue Center has partnered with the South Texas healthcare system as a facility where anyone age sixteen or older can donate blood to save the lives of others.  In 1994, the Center moved its headquarters to a facility designed by Overland Partners that includes a donor pavilion and state-of-the-art laboratory facilities.

Not Enough Space, Not Enough Donors
By the 1990s, the South Texas Blood & Tissue Center faced a two-fold challenge.  While the old downtown San Antonio brick building in which they were housed could no longer operate efficiently, there was also a sense that they were not reaching their potential in attracting blood donors.
A Billboard Approach
The obvious solution to both problems was to build a new state-of-the-art facility in a highly visible location.   The site chosen was a stretch of land that runs parallel to a section of Interstate 10, which daily is one of the most highly trafficked areas of San Antonio.  With the selection of such prime real estate, however, the problem still remained as to how to market the facility to drive-by traffic in such a way that passers-by would begin to think about coming back there to donate blood.

Where do drivers get most of their drive-by information?  From billboards, of course.  Since the Center already had a distinctive and memorable logo of two interlocking hearts (symbolic of one person transferring blood to another), Overland Partners decided to treat the façade like a giant billboard that would emphasize this logo.  Constructed from Texas limestone, the 40 x 300 foot façade fronts the highway directly, with the logo inset into a square opening at one end.

This building is a celebration of selfless generosity in giving blood for others’ needs. It is a crown of thanks for our donors’ gift of life.
Dr. Norman Kalmin President, CEO and Medical Director STBTC
Hats Off To The Blood Donors
Donating blood can be an intimidating experience, so it was essential that the Donor Pavilion behind the façade feel welcoming and calming. To achieve this, Overland Partners designed an open, light-filled cylindrical structure where blood donors can feel at ease while they admire a collection of artwork made from recycled materials, an approach that metaphorically conveys the idea that blood is a life source that can be recycled from one person to another. According to Don Bacigalupi, who served on the art selection committee and is currently President of the Lucas Museum of Narrative Art, “One might think of the way in which red blood cells convey oxygen to the body, each cell the carrier of the essential components of life. . . . Artworks [too] are often the bearers of important, even essential information or communications about life, the human condition, about our culture, perhaps even about spiritual concerns.”

Other significant features of the South Texas Blood & Tissue Center include the private laboratories, which are housed in a separate boxlike structure for optimal efficiency and economy, and the building’s innovative water recycling systems.  For irrigating the surrounding landscape, the Overland team designed innovative filtration systems.  One uses water spilled from the air conditioning system and the other is a roofing structure shaped like an inverted umbrella that collects and recycles rainwater. According to principal architect Tim Blonkvist, this distinctive roofing element is a hallmark of the building which “acknowledges that the people who donate blood are the crown princes and princesses of our society.”

Awards
  • AIA San Antonio Design Award 1998
  • Construction Services Institute Regional Design Honor Award, Exceptional Craftsmanship 1997
  • Construction Services Institute San Antonio Design Honor Award, Exceptional Craftsmanship 1997
  • San Antonio Water System Conservation Award 1997
  • State of Texas Prototype for Sustainable Design and Water Conservation 1997
  • TSA Design Honor Award 1996
  • Associated Builders and Contractors Awards First Place, Excellence in Construction 1995
Publications
  • Texas Architect, “Front and Back,” September 1996
  • San Antonio Express News, “A Collection with Heart,” July 1996
  • San Antonio Medical Gazette, “Grow with the Flow,” February 1995
  • San Antonio Express News, “New Blood Bank Headquarters to Collect Roof’s Rainwater,” July 1993