Project site: Previously developed land
Building program type(s): Public Assembly – Recreation
Along the bank of the San Antonio River, Confluence Park is a living laboratory designed to broaden visitors’ understanding of south Texas ecotypes and the impact of urban development on local watersheds. A destination for learning and recreation, the park is part of the country’s largest environmental restoration project and an accessible gateway to outdoor activity. The design reflects the idea of confluence—the park is situated at the junction of the San Antonio River and San Pedro Creek. Grand gestures such as the park’s shaped lands represent the convergence of ecotypes, while the central pavilion’s concrete petal structures draw inspiration from plants that funnel rainwater to their roots.
Confluence Park is a living learning laboratory designed to inspire people to gain a greater understanding of Texas ecotypes and the impact of urban development on our watershed. Located along the edge of the San Antonio River, Confluence Park is part of the country’s largest urban environmental restoration project and is an inviting gateway to running, biking, and paddling trails.
The client, the San Antonio River Foundation, is dedicated to making the San Antonio River Basin a vibrant cultural, educational, ecological, and recreational experience. The foundation tasked the design team with transforming a former industrial laydown yard into a one-of-a-kind outdoor educational center to serve the San Antonio community.
The design solution was inspired by the client’s stated project directive: to create a park that will educate the community about native Texan ecological systems, river dynamics, watershed protection, and the importance of conserving natural resources. The park is located at the confluence of the San Antonio River and San Pedro Creek, and this idea of confluence—of water, ecology, and culture—is ingrained in every aspect of the design. Large gestures like the shaped land of the park represent the convergence of five regional landscape ecotypes in the south Texas region, while more specific details like the pavilion “petals” are inspired by the plant structures that funnel dew and rainwater to their roots. Even the lines in the design of the paver patterns are reminiscent of the flow and confluence of waterways.
“This project is both architecturally functional but also just a beautiful space where I’d want to be in.” - Jury comment
The $12.8 million park’s elements seek to highlight urban ecology and development, including 3.5 acres of native planting, a 2,000 sq. ft. multipurpose building, a 6,000 sq. ft. central pavilion, and three smaller “satellite” pavilions dispersed throughout the park. The central pavilion, made up of 22 concrete “petals,” forms a network of vaults to provide shade and direct the flow of rainwater into an underground cistern used for the park’s sewage conveyance and irrigation needs. Each petal was cast on-site using a modified tilt-up construction technique and digitally fabricated fiberglass composite molds. They were then lifted into place in pairs to form structural arches. The multipurpose Estela Avery Education Center building houses park amenities and a classroom/event space that opens to the pavilion, blurring the lines between indoors and out. A green roof provides thermal mass for passive heating and cooling, while a solar photovoltaic array is intended to produce 100% of the park’s energy needs. This low-lying building was designed as a dynamic juxtaposition to the pavilion—the board-formed concrete walls are highly textured compared to the smooth, fiberglass-formed petals, and the more geometric forms contrast with the curves of the pavilion.
Confluence Park demonstrates how the conversion of a former blighted industrial laydown yard into a public amenity can showcase sustainability concepts, low-impact design, and thoughtful place-making, underscoring the importance of this small facility’s forward-facing impact on its citizens, visitors, students, and society.