On the Edge of Future: Narratives of the Making of a City

As San Antonio is celebrating its 300th birthday the city is sitting “On the Edge of Future.” In the next 25 years, the city is expecting its population to grow by an estimated 1.4 million residents. San Antonio’s already extensive sprawled landscape is not a result of spatial design, but a product of economic and logistic optimization and neglecting the role of spatial form and citizen agency in finding urban solutions. While San Antonians are optimistic about their future and becoming more directly involved with public interest design, questions remain about the future of natural resources, transportation, urban policy, social justice, affordable housing, and civic infrastructure. How do we increase the scope of design in San Antonio and simultaneously leverage new technologies with social, cultural, political, and economic currencies to more directly engage in the processes of spatial production? How do we capture the emergent nature of San Antonio while recognizing the city as a collective cultural artifact?

In collaboration with the Witte Museum the Urban Future Lab, a research and design think-tank and teaching lab founded by Dr. Antonio Petrov, professor at the UTSA College of Architecture, Construction and Planning, seeks to explore the rapidly changing dynamics of urban futures and how they relate to local currencies. In conjunction with the Witte’s upcoming Tricentennial exhibition, the Urban Future Lab and the Museum have organized a speaker series with the goal of asking how public interest design can have agency in the metamorphosis of a city in transition. In a sequence of dialogues and exhibitions, we aim to walk new territory as citizens and designers together in expanding the intellectual terrain as we discover new narratives of the making of a city.

On the Edge of Future: Narratives of the Making of a City, a three-part series, begins with “Constructing Infrastructure” on Monday, November 6, 2017, at 6 p.m. Join the Facebook event. In the series’ inaugural dialogue, the following speakers will explore urban and infrastructural transformations and contemplate currencies that give infrastructure new life.

Martin Felsen, FAIA, co-founded UrbanLab in 2000. The architecture and urban design office blends design and research to produce uniquely progressive, site-specific projects, resulting in a new aesthetic for environmentally resilient architecture, landscapes, and public space. UrbanLab’s new book, Bowling, investigates the symbiotic relationships between architectures of quality and infrastructures of quantity in Chicago, New York, and the Sun Belt. Felsen received the Dubin Family Young Architect Award in 2007 from AIA Chicago. Also in 2007 UrbanLab was named the national winner of the History Channel’s “City of the Future,” competition for a proposal titled, “Growing Water.” In 2012, UrbanLab exhibited work at the Venice Biennale in “Common Ground” curated by David Chipperfiled, and in 2015, UrbanLab exhibited “Filter Island” at the Chicago Biennial. Felsen is also an associate professor at the Illinois Institute of Technology, College of Architecture.

Dr. Antonio Petrov is founding editor of the Harvard GSD publication New Geographies, and founder and editor-in-chief of DOMA. He received his doctoral degree in the history and theory of architecture, urbanism, and cultural studies from Harvard University. Dr. Petrov edited the Harvard University Press published New Geographies Volume 5 “The Mediterranean: Worlds, Regions, Cities and Architectures” and is currently working on manuscripts titled, On the Edge of Future and Superordinary: New Sacred Geographies (forthcoming from Actar Publishers).

Dr. Christine Drennon is an Associate Professor of sociology and anthropology at Trinity University with expertise in urban geography and community development. Dr. Drennon’s research and activism have recently focused on San Antonio’s East Side neighborhoods, while her community outreach demonstrates how scholars can build bridges of support and collaboration that make a difference in the lives of community residents.

Siboney Diaz-Sanchez, an Architectural Designer at Overland Partners, is a San Antonio native who graduated from Cornell University with a Bachelor of Architecture. She thrives on her community involvement, civic engagement, and commitment to local art organizations.

“Urban Transformations,” the second dialogue, starts at 6 p.m. on Monday, February 5, 2018, and will take a critical look at Bilbao, Spain, and how the Guggenheim Museum catalyzed the city’s transformation. The discussion will examine issues of de-historicized urban territory, accessibility in the region, and incremental urbanism in an attempt to discover how design can encourage inclusion and diversity. An exhibition of archival findings on Bilbao’s transformation will accompany the dialogue.

The third dialogue, “Water,” starts at 6 p.m. on Monday, April 9, 2018. The discussion will examine the relationship between water and human geographies and how the synthesis was instrumental in the shaping of San Antonio.

All events in the series are free and open to the public and will be held in the Witte Museum’s Prassel Auditorium.