Octagonal Bank of New Zealand banker's desk carved from Australian red cedar, Dunedin, circa 1883.

Octagonal Bank of New Zealand banker's desk carved from Australian red cedar, Dunedin, circa 1883.
Octagonal Bank of New Zealand banker's desk carved from Australian red cedar, Dunedin, circa 1883.

Thursday, November 15, 2018

CHRISpark Tour with The Cultural Landscape Foundation® - Part 2, November 10, 2018

Continued from Part 1: Trinity University...

CHRISpark entry plaza
Our tour at CHRISpark this afternoon was totally different from this morning's tour at Trinity University. While Trinity University is large, CHRISpark is a less-than-one-acre pocket park. Trinity's tour had about 35 people; CHRISpark's tour had 12. The university tour educates thousands in all different subjects; CHRISpark educates about contemporary art and is a memorial to the founder's son, Chris Goldsbury, who died at age 24.

Jon Ahrens, the landscape architect who xeriscaped CHRISpark, was our tour guide today. He drove from Austin to give us the rundown on the park. 

At the entrance to the park, he told us about the entry plaza. If you look closely at the photo below, you will see circles in the pavers. Those house jumping water jets that go about 8' high. They were put in to provide children a fun place to play. However, they were turned off due to the high heat and water loss due to evaporation in South Texas's summers. Also in the pavers are little blue lights that shine into the night sky and replicate the constellations on the day of Chris' birth. The light art is called Starfield. Linda Pace could see the Starfield lights from her apartment on the top two floors of the building across the street.

Linda Pace's apartment was on the top two floors.
The park was dedicated in 2005 and was laid out in a series of garden rooms, each focusing on a single plant type. There are two large stands of bamboo on either side of the entry plaza. The landscape architect used those to provide shade because they grew tall fast.

Bamboo plantings
Our guide, Jim Ahrens, is on the right.
The garden "room" below is called Wednesday's Child and is a series of illuminated glass pavers that look like jewels; each has a verse in it from the nursery rhyme. Chris was born on a Wednesday.

Wednesday's Child is full of grace...
Hong Kong Orchid Tree
Just before the park was built, a parking garage was installed under the building across the street. Jon Ahrens was able to use a lot of the excavated dirt to build berms and hillocks in the park.

Hill with grass for children to roll down.
Shrimp plant in bloom.
Salvia forsythia flowering around a fig tree.
Vines help the restroom building blend into
the scenery.
Hong Kong Orchid Tree blossom.
Salvia forsythia
The park used to have contemporary art in it, but the only pieces remaining are outside SPACE, a small gallery in the back of the park. I'm guessing, though no one mentioned it, that the art pieces are either in storage or in Ruby City, a new 10,000' exhibition space, which will open across Camp Street. It will house Linda Pace Foundation's ever-growing collection of contemporary art. We did not get to tour Ruby City.
Ruby City
Linda Pace worked closely with Jon Ahrens on the plantings in the park. She knew what she wanted and asked him to put in plants that would be blooming somewhere in the park all year around. One plant, in particular, was needed: a Natchez Mock Orange. Dubbed Chris' Tree, it blooms each spring in the month of his birth and fills the air with the scent of fresh citrus.

My impression of this little park is that it does not get used much. There is a high fence around it and locking gates. The park is private with limited hours, is not well known, and you have to look to find it. Once you do, though, it's a little gem, a place you can find quietude and beauty. Really, there are no play structures for children since they turned off the water jets. Kids can roll down the one little grassy hill if, indeed, kids ever come here.

Here's a little history of Linda Pace. It's a bit complicated, but here goes: Her mother, Margaret Bosshardt, descended from the family that at one time owned the Pearl Brewery in San Antonio. Her father, David Pace, started Pace 
Foods in 1947 with financial backing from her grandmother, Hedwig Bosshardt. I'm sure you've heard of Pace Picante Sauce. Well, she is the daughter of the Pace's who founded the business. 

When she got married to Kit Goldsbury, her father insisted that her husband work on the production line that made hot sauce. Kit had allergies that were aggravated by the smell of peppers and onions. Her husband lasted six months on the line. He was then promoted to a salesman and did very well, turning a profit for the company. 

In 1977, Linda's dad made Kit the president of Pace Foods. By that time, Linda's mom and dad were divorced. Linda's mother bought out her father's share of Pace Foods, making her mother Kit's boss. This caused all kinds of complications in Linda and Kit's marriage which led to their divorce. In the divorce settlement, Linda gave up her share of Pace Picante Sauce. She then felt free to engage herself fully in contemporary art.

If you'd like to know more about Linda Pace, here is a link to a very interesting article from Texas Monthly Magazine, "An Unmarried Woman," by Jan Jarboe Russell, from February 2003.

The Linda Pace Foundation is guided by the donor's conviction that contemporary art is essential to a dynamic society. The Foundation fosters the creation, presentation, and understanding of innovative expression through contemporary art. Grants pay for the operation of ArtPace, CHRISpark, the public exhibition of Pace's contemporary art collection, and the work of contemporary artists.

Our tour lasted one hour. Afterward, I went home and got ready for Traveler's World RV Park's first Steak Night and Dance of our busy season. We headed over to the Recreation Hall at 5:45 p.m. The charcoal grills were set up for people to cook whatever they brought: steak, chicken, fish, or veggies. We had two salmon steaks with garlic pesto on them. 

It was a nice evening with DJ Terry spinning country western tunes. After one dance and some socializing with Dave, Jyl, Carol, and André, we called it a night.

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Trinity University Tour by The Cultural Landscape Foundation® - Part 1, Saturday, November 10, 2018

On this cold, dreary morning while Bob is out punishing himself on his 20-mile marathon training run, I am waiting in George Storch Courtyard at Trinity University in San Antonio, Texas, with 35 other people for our tour to begin at 9:15 a.m. I wasn't sure what to expect, but I am definitely interested in learning more about Trinity University because one of our Texas Trail Roundup walks goes through the campus.

With an on-time start, Dr. Kathryn O'Rourke, associate professor of art and art history at Trinity (and with a B.A. in architecture from Wellesley College) welcomed us and gave a brief introduction on what to expect on today's tour. One thing we noticed immediately is that we were not the only tour group. Many students and their families were touring campus today. They were deciding if they wanted to attend Trinity University. Over 500 people, besides us, would be touring today! 

She then turned the talk over to Boone Powell, FAIA, an architect who worked with O'Neil Ford (and later became his partner) on planning Trinity University. 
We learned that Trinity University had actually occupied two other sites in San Antonio before it moved to this location. It is now built on the site of an old rock quarry that actually extended east. The Sunken Garden Theater, Japanese Tea Garden, and the San Antonio Zoo were all part of that same rock quarry.

Dr. Kathryn O'Rourke (second from left) and
Boone Powell, architect (third from left) in
Storch Courtyard (bust of Storch in background).
Storch Memorial Building (you can see the
concrete slab construction...it was considered
very modern at the time).

Boone Powell talked to us about how Storch Library (now Storch Memorial Building) was built as one of the first Trinity University buildings. It was built to block one of the streets in the city's grid system to start making the campus a unified whole without intrusion from through traffic. The building was constructed using the Youtz-Slick lift-slab system.

The way I understood Powell's description of a lift-slab system is that the foundation was poured first. Concrete columns with lifting collars were erected next. Concrete slabs were then poured one on top of the other over the foundation. Then a lift-slab hydraulic jack was used to lift the top floor, connecting the slab to the columns with the collar device. Then the lift-slab jack would haul up the next concrete slab, connect it to the collars, and so on until all the floors were complete. 

One of the benefits of this type of construction was that many windows and balconies could be put into the buildings. On the Storch Library that meant the students had a great view of downtown from the hill. Trinity University believed that students should look (quite literally in this instance) toward the future, and their future could be working in downtown San Antonio.

Mr. Powell realized that he was taking up our tour time, so he gracefully turned the tour back over to Dr. O'Rourke and said he would add comments as we went along. We walked along the Coates Esplanade which gave us a good view of Murchison Tower. 

The Coates Esplanade at the top of the old quarry divides the upper and lower campuses. The upper campus consists of classrooms, library, chapel, and the arts, while the lower campus includes living spaces, dining hall, and sports complexes.

Murchison Tower on top of the hill.
In front of Coates University Center there are serpentine stairs leading to the lower part of the campus. The stairs were built not in a straight line, but instead curve down to the dorms. This technique is in juxtaposition to the straight, hard, angular lines of the buildings. The landscaping blends in trees and shrubs to give softer edges as well. 

Dr. O'Rourke explaining the history of Trinity
University as well as the way landscaping is used
to soften hard edges.

We did not have time to visit the lower campus today and we made our way to Parker Chapel, designed by O'Neil Ford. As we approached the chapel, Dr. O'Rourke pointed out how the area in front of the chapel was made to feel like an Italian Renaissance village. The walkway becomes uneven limestone. That was done on purpose to make people slow down and change pace before entering the chapel. 

The gigantic Murchison Bell Tower is in this plaza along with a small meditation area. Large and small areas. Big buildings versus small intimate spaces. Hectic versus quietude. I couldn't help but wonder if Murchison Bell Tower is there to get people to look upward before and after going to chapel.

Meditation area in front of the chapel.
Looking skyward at Murchison Bell Tower.
Uneven limestone pavers help to slow you down.
Beautiful wood and lead doors lead into the chapel. Once inside, there are intricately woven tapestries.

Entrance to Parker Chapel.
Fantastic tapestries throughout.
Inside Parker Chapel which has a
beloved, famous pipe organ.
Looking toward the back of the chapel.
Lovely windows looking out over a courtyard garden.
Unique leaded glass windows.
A small meditation chapel.
Beautiful arches in hallway alongside the chapel.
This hallway looks out over the courtyard garden
and fountain.
Courtyard garden and fountain.
After Parker Chapel, the landscape architect (I'm sorry but I didn't get his name) took over to tell us about the upper part of the campus. Miller Fountain became the center of the upper campus. All buildings, pathways, and spaces flow around the circle of the fountain. He told us about the campus tradition of dunking students in the fountain on their birthday. It's amazing the things you learn on tours!
Miller Fountain.
Miller Fountain.
In the photo below, you can see how berms were created to add more interest by using elevation. Again, there is the theme of circles and ovals to soften the angular edges of buildings. 

Landscaping is intentionally rounded.
Modern times make us redesign original landscapes due to fire codes. Below, the path used to be much narrower with more plantings and trees. However, many students attend classes in all the buildings here. The fire department needs to be able to bring in emergency vehicles in case of a fire. Therefore, trees were transplanted into some of the new berms and a wide path created. Again, you can see the oval-shaped brick path in the middle of the wider space. 

This used to be a much narrower path with large
trees providing shade.
Our tour group learning about the rooftop garden
and bio-swale.
Center for the Sciences and Innovation--
Cowles Hall
Part of the studies at Center for the Sciences and Innovation is research into rooftop gardens. In Texas, the studies are trying to find plants that can survive wind, and heat with no shade. The rooftop has not one, but four irrigation lines that can be used in research. Recycling the water is an important conservation measure which is accomplished by collecting the water that comes out of the roof scuppers into a storage tank below the scuppers. 

Rooftop garden on one of these buildings.
Scuppers are the roof drains and here
the water goes into a collection tank.
Water settles in the collection tank and pollutants are filtered out. Then the water is pumped back up to the roof.

Because of all the big buildings not allowing water to seep back into the ground naturally, and because of all the water run-off from the roofs with some of San Antonio's big rainstorms, a bio-swale was created in front of this building. There is a ditch-like area where water can stand until it is dispersed outward. 

Some of the trees that were transplanted did not survive but they did not go to waste. The trees were cut into planks and used as parts of furniture in the Center for the Sciences and Innovation--Cowles Hall. I went in to see what I could find of the re-used trees. Without going more than 30 steps into the building, I found the following:

A bench recycled from a dead tree.
A beautiful slab of wood creates this long table.
All the new landscaping put in when the path was widened to fire code standards consists of indigenous plants. Those plants equal less water and easier maintenance. In this part of campus, there is less landscaping done and plants are allowed to grow out over part of the sidewalk to soften the hard concrete edges of the sidewalks.

Notice plants growing out over the sidewalk.
With that, our 1-1/2 hour tour was over. Our guide told us to walk along the other side of Cowles Hall to see the outdoor classroom. There are limestone benches facing a slate wall. Students can collaborate and discuss, and they can use chalk on the slate to make drawings or make notes. It's all part of changing it up and getting those neurons in the brain firing to make new pathways and come up with new ideas (innovation).

Outdoor classroom complete with slate
Bring your own chalk.
On the way back to the car, I snapped one more pic of Murchison Bell Tower. You can see the stairs inside it.

Murchison Bell Tower
I headed back home. At 2:45 p.m., I have a tour of one-acre CHRISpark. Since this blog is long and the hour is late, I will make this day a two-part blog.

To be continued...

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

The Cultural Landscape Foundation®: connecting people to places™ - Tuesday, November 13, 2018

My mind is bursting with blogs because I've been so busy I haven't had time to write! Even though I have many travel blogs to complete, the first piece on my agenda is to let you all know about The Cultural Landscape Foundation®: connecting people to places™. It's an organization I found out about last week through the serendipitous posting by our AVA (American Volkssport Club) president. Ellen casually remarked in her email that the What's Out There Weekend San Antonio sounded interesting. By the time I looked up the events on EventBrite, the reservations for most of the tours were booked.

Let me back up and tell you about the foundation...According to their website, this is what they represent:
"A non-profit established in 1998, The Cultural Landscape Foundation® (TCLF) connects people to places. TCLF 
educates and engages the public to make our shared landscape heritage more visible, identify its value, and empower its stewards. TCLF achieves this mission through the ongoing development of its three core programs:
  • What's Out There®, North America's largest and most exhaustive database of cultural landscapes;
  • Pioneers of American Landscape Design®, an in-depth multimedia library, inclusive of video oral histories, chronicling the lives of significant landscape architects and educators;
  • Landslide®, an ongoing collection of important landscapes and landscape features that are threatened and at-risk."
What we were able to sign up for together were the Opening Reception and a tour of Woodlawn Lake Park. On Saturday, when Bob did a 20-mile training run for the marathon, I toured Trinity University and CHRISpark. 

The Opening Reception last Friday night was a delightful surprise. We thought it would be refreshments and someone speaking. 

My handsome man-about-town, Bob.

However, when we arrived at The San Pedro Playhouse (recently renamed The Public Theater San Antonio), we were directed into the theater to hear MOJO-rimba, a young marimba band from Universal City, Texas, play. They were enthusiastic, passionate, and fun. We guessed they were middle-school aged. Not only did they play rock cover and other songs, their concert was choreographed as well. AND, they could switch instruments and play a different-toned marimba (xylophone-like instrument).

Yummy refreshments.
We wandered out and snagged food from the tapas bar: wild mushroom and onion quesadillas, chicken molĂ© empanadas, chips and salsa, and Mexican hot chocolate to drink. After eating, we went back into the auditorium to listen to speakers explain about the foundation and what to expect this weekend. 

Then Charles Birnbaum, CEO of The Cultural Landscape Foundation, talked with us about the expert-led free tours we would be experiencing. Twenty-four tours were offered and it is the goal to let people see what landscape architects do. Oftentimes, we are not aware that landscaping has many purposes. Kudos and applause were given to the people who made the events possible.

After the speakers, a dessert spread had magically appeared out in the foyer. It included a table with pastries and cookies. In addition, a whole table and wall were loaded with doughnuts of all varieties. Sweet tooth heaven! 

Decadent doughnuts for dessert (with
Mexican hot chocolate).
There was a place with props for selfie photo ops. Bob and I aren't very good at taking selfies, so we dressed up and had a volunteer standing nearby take our photo. A mariachi band played for our entertainment. 

Silly selfies with props for photo ops.
Mariachi music to set the mood.
About 7:30 p.m. we headed for home. All the way home, we kept talking about how wonderful the foundation is and we couldn't believe our good fortune to have gone to the Opening Reception. And the reception and all the tours are FREE. Can't beat that. 

Next up, I'll give you the low-down on the Trinity University tour that was Saturday morning. So. Much. Information!