APT San Antonio 2016 Annual ConferenceDate: October 30 - November 2, 2016
200 S. Alamo
San Antonio, TX 78205
Preserving Heritage with Tomorrow’s Technology
Preserving Heritage with Tomorrow’s Technology. From a heady mixture of cultures, unique experiences in food, music, architecture and the arts, San Antonio is a city where history comes alive. Explored by Spanish expeditions in 1691 and 1709, the beginning sketches of San Antonio can trace how and by whom the city’s architecture has been heavily influenced by various cultures, including Spanish, Mexican, German and Southern Anglo-American features. San Antonio represents a confluence of these cultures in its physical layout. The Texas State Historical Society writes, “Each period of growth produced characteristic and often distinguished architecture. Peculiarly, San Antonio succeeded in merging its past into the new in each generation. Old Spanish walls remain beside modern glass towers, with rows of Victorian mansions a block away, a combination that lends the city a charm sought out by millions of visitors.”
Various innovations and technologies were developed in San Antonio. From the days of Spanish rule, innovative engineering is evidenced by the working remains of the original acequias (aqueducts) that brought water from the surrounding areas to the Spanish missions (newly named to the World Heritage List), and to the heart of what is now the seventh largest city in the United States. The innovative use of concrete and the lift-slab technology used to build Trinity University, and the modular concrete units used to build APT’s host hotel, the Hilton Palacio del Rio, are both examples of how technology and concrete set new benchmarks for engineering in it’s day, but also are now examples of newer, groundbreaking processes.
San Antonio does not just ‘preserve’ this extraordinary heritage, its heritage is an integral part of the city’s life and spirit. APT San Antonio aims to capture that spirit through the conference tracks described below.
The following themes, which form the conference tracks, will be explored throughout the conference.
A. Spanish Colonial Structures, Traditions and Cultures
In the Old World, Spain embodied a cultural richness that grew from the knowledge and traditions of a wide variety of religious and ethnic groups. In the New World, this richness combined with the indigenous cultures of Mexico, and was spread north with the establishment of military and missionary settlements from California to Texas. The San Antonio Missions, newly named to the World Heritage List, demonstrate the impact of Old World traditions and cultures in the New World. This track examines how 21st century technologies are being used to study, protect and interpret cultural amalgamations in the US as well as other countries. Topics include:
- The technologies of Spanish-influenced buildings and engineered structures like the acequias
- The evaluation of building materials and assemblies used in Spanish Colonial times
- How two (or more) cultural traditions have blended to create unique structures
- Documentation and interpretation of structures that represent more than one building tradition
- The application of modern and emerging technologies in protecting, preserving and rehabilitating multi-cultural heritage
- Craftsmanship across the centuries
- Retrofitting new technologies into historic structures
B. Revisiting Mid-Century Modern
APT continues to play a cooperative leadership role in evaluating, preserving and rehabilitating the built heritage of the Modern Movement. The rapid growth of San Antonio in the 1950s spurred the development of residential neighborhoods like Balcones Heights, Terrell Hills and Castle Hills, with examples of the clean designs in the Mid-Century style. These were paralleled by the work of architects O’Neil Ford, Bartlett Cocke, Henry Steinbomer and others, who designed churches, institutional structures, and commercial buildings during the same period.
Following the successful track and symposium in Kansas City, the 2016 conference will focus on buildings of the Mid-Century Modern era, and will consider:
- Saving Brutalism and other misunderstood and under-appreciated buildings
- Retrofitting and renewing buildings for 21st century owners and users
- Decision-making and practical approaches for prototypes and ‘innovative’ materials that may no longer be available
- Conserving the context: upgrading the ordinary
- The compatibility of sustainable preservation, economic viability, and traditional preservation ethics
C. Concrete: Materials and Innovations
San Antonio is an excellent venue for considering concrete materials and innovations. Our conference hotel – Palacio del Rio – is an innovative concrete building. In order to be ready for the opening of the 1968 Hemisfair the hotel’s upper floors were created from modular concrete units that were completely furnished before being lifted into place! In fact, concrete has been an important building material in San Antonio and the surrounding areas for over two centuries. At one time, nearby Seguin, Texas, had the largest concentration of 19th-century concrete structures in the U.S. The Alamo Cement Company was chartered in 1880 and produced cements that were used to build the Texas State Capitol and many other historic structures. San Antonio also is rich in 20th century concrete structures, including the innovative lift-slab construction dormitories at Trinity University designed by O’Neil Ford.
This track will explore:
- Concrete materials, including the cements and aggregates that have been used
- The illustrious history of concrete from the 17th through 20th centuries
- Concrete in its many forms, from monolithic concrete structures to precast and concrete masonry units
- Innovative construction techniques, including successes and failures
- Preservation problems and how they have been addressed
- The use of concrete as a decorative material and in sculptural elements
D. Cultural Landscapes: Patterns and Palimpsests
Reading the landscape involves looking for imprints and patterns that provide information about the relationship of a group or community with the natural environment; in most areas, this process also involves searching for evidence of past configurations that reveal a layered history. The cultural landscapes of San Antonio are rich with the imprints of past residents, including Native Americans and 16th century Spanish settlers.
This track will consider a variety of cultural landscape issues, including:
- The wide variety of human relationships with the landscape
- How settlers impacted their new environments and the short- and long-term changes that resulted
- The evolution of cultural landscapes, including the investigation of transition points and influences
- Tools and methodologies for cultural landscape exploration, discovery and re-discovery
- Investigating a cultural landscape continuum
- The challenge of interpreting cultural landscape patterns and anomalies
- New technologies for documenting cultural landscapes
E. Vernacular Heritage: Honoring the Ordinary
Vernacular architecture describes buildings constructed of local materials using traditional construction techniques. San Antonio’s La Villita, the ‘little town’ on the banks of the San Antonio River, now an arts community, provides examples of a variety of 19th century vernacular buildings. Vernacular architecture in Texas also includes the farms, ranches and community buildings constructed during the 18th and 19th centuries by Spanish, Mexican, German, Irish, English and Swedish settlers, among others. The surviving structures, including German limestone block houses, Mexican jacales, dog-trot houses and geometrically-complex wood-framed dance halls, are unique expressions of the cultural traditions of these early settlers.
This track celebrates vernacular architecture in Texas and the U.S as well as in other countries and will cover:
- Materiality and traditions used by first peoples
- Ways in which immigrants adapted their building traditions to new climatic conditions
- Innovative uses of locally available building materials
- Adapting old world technologies and traditions to new homelands
- The revival of vernacular building methods using contemporary materials
- Repurposing vernacular buildings
- Preservation dilemmas with vernacular architecture
More information coming soon!