hydrogeomimicry: a visit to san antonio's confluence park

I originally posted this at my Texas groundwater blog.


In the architectural world, there's this thing called mimicry: structures that are inspired by nature. There's biomimicry, such as at Antoni Gaudi's ethereal (started in 1881 and still under construction!) cathedral in Barcelona:

Tree-like columns inside Gaudi's Barcelona cathedral (via Wikimedia Commons)

There's also geomimicry, such as Jean Nouvel's stunning National Museum of Qatar inspired by desert rose quartz:

Jean-Nouvel-national-museum-qatar-Iwan-Baan_dezeen_2364_col_1.jpgphoto from Dezeen
And then there's what I would call hydrogeomimicry: architecture inspired by aquifers [I'm not sure this is a thing, but it should be!].
The first Texas example I ever saw was Richter Architects' excellent Texas Travel Information Center in Amarillo evoking the layers of sandy silt and silty sand in the Ogallala Aquifer:

photo from NarrowLarry

Another example is the main office for the Edwards Aquifer Authority designed by Kell Munoz:

10115_N45_EdwardsAquifer-452915_960x480.jpgphoto from Bartlett Cocke

where the stone cladding evokes the geology of the Edwards Aquifer, including faulting (and relay ramps?) from the Balcones Fault Zone.

You could easily argue that these Texas examples are really geomimicry since they represent the geologyof aquifers, but the shade structures at Confluence Park in San Antonio directly include water as part of the design.

Confluence Park is located at the confluence (the merging) of San Pedro Creek and the San Antonio River. Led by the San Antonio River Foundation with architecture by the world-famous regionalist architectural firm Lake | Flatoand landscape architecture by Rialto Studios, the park is a neo-Brutalist stunner of Corten Steel, concrete, and native plants.

The hydrogeomimicry appears in the massive concrete shade structures that also funnel rainwater into an underground array of storage. According to Ted Flato (who, as I, was at a water event at the park) explained that the petals of the structure represent the Edwards Aquifer where the flanks with small light-holes evoke the rock matrix and the channels up the center of the panels represent centralized conduit flow in the aquifer (there was a suggestion that this explanation may have been reverse-engineered; nonetheless, the interpretation of creative works generally occurs after creation, so we'll roll with it...).

The design of the petals (if I heard right...) involved AI software fed the image of a lily petal and an umbrella (which would technically make the structures hydrogeobiomimicry [I need to trademark that]). The classroom of board-formed concrete, Kundigesque shading, and wood (cypress?) was similarly stunning.

The park gateways access to the creek and river and their associated trails. Unfortunately, I didn't have time to explore more than the park, but I'll be heading down on personal time to explore the area in more detail in the near future. Megakudos to River Foundation (and its donors) for not only developing this park but also supporting inspired architecure. Great architecture requires great clients, and the Foundation rose to the task.


the aquifer matrix


Ted Flato (who's a real sweetheart)








IMG_4408.jpgthe depression in the foreground capture stormwater runoff and, after infiltration through soils, captures the water for on-site use

the park waters the grounds with rainwater and stormwater

toilets and urinals flush with rainwater












dancing with architecture: antoine predock in albuquerque, new mexico

I loves me some New Mexico, I loves me some Austin, and I loves me some architecture--and Antoine Predock brings all three together with Austin's City Hall. So when I found myself with a free afternoon in Albuquerque--Predock's pre-retirement home base--I sought out his local projects.

Born in Lebanon, Missouri, in 1936, Predock came to the University of New Mexico in 1958 to study engineering, the profession of his father. After taking engineering drawing from Don Schlegel from the architecture department in his second year, Predock jumped over to the architecture department before transferring to Columbia to finish his undergraduate degree in 1962. (After a summer internship with Texas architect and Frank Lloyd Wright associate Charles Adams, Predock traveled to Taliesin West and met Frank Lloyd Wright [and almost joined Wright's school]). After traveling Spain on a post-graduation fellowship, Predock returned to New Mexico in 1963. In 1967, he started his own firm to design La Luz, a forward-thinking "suburban" development inspired by the plasticity and introversion of  New Mexican adobe, the austerity of Louis Khan, and the regality of Alhambra.

Predock is deeply influenced by New Mexico:

”New Mexico has formed my experience in an all-pervasive sense. I don’t think of New Mexico as a region. I think of it as a force that has entered my system, a force that is composed of many things.”

“My earliest memory of architecture would be coming to New Mexico in the 50’s and seeing the power of the big, blank adobe wall — especially the church in Las Trampas, New Mexico.“

"New Mexico taught me how to be an architect."

The Land of Enchantment is probably the perfect place to practice architecture since cubism is literally baked into its adobe walls.

Predock received the AIA Gold Medal (among many other awards) and retired last year, donating his home and studio to the university. He started his career with the austerity of Brutalism and then drifted into neo-Expressionism (I've included some photos at the end of his more recent work).

In a crazy moment of serendipity, as I relaxed in Predock's viewing platform at the Rio Grande Nature Center after huffing my way around La Luz across the river, an older couple joined me and started discussing the architecture, I asked them if they were on Tour de Predock. As it turns out, it was Ray Graham, the developer of La Luz, and his wife! We had a good chat about "Tony" and his work around town and the world.

la luz (1967-1969)

 law school (1971)

aperture center (2006-8)

rio grande nature center (1982) 

a mural I saw driving from point A to point B

albuquerque museum of art and history (1979)

Predock designed the original museum, which was extensively remodeled later by another architect. Most of what I photographed is probably the remodel.

another point A to point B mural. this one is stunning! found out it was by David Santiago. the hotel I stayed at in Santa Fe was littered with his work. a print is on the way!



house and studio


school of architecture (2008)

cornell parking structure (2003)



other predock work (not my photos):