Urban Future Lab, Witte Museum discuss future of San Antonio in Tricentennial speaker series

As San Antonio celebrates its 300th birthday, the city is sitting (literally and figuratively) “On the Edge of Future.” In the next 25 years, the city expects 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 citizen agency in finding urban solutions. While San Antonians are optimistic about their future and becoming more directly involved in the processes of placemaking, questions remain about the future of transportation, civic infrastructure, social justice, and affordable housing. How do we increase the scope of design in San Antonio and leverage the city’s rich social and cultural currencies to more directly engage in the processes of spatial production and economic development? How do we capture the emergent nature of urban transformations while recognizing San Antonio as a collective cultural artifact?

To address these challenges and explore the rapidly changing dynamics of urban futures and how they relate to local currencies, assistant professor Antonio Petrov has founded the Urban Future Lab at UTSA. Housed within the College of Architecture, Construction and Planning, the interdisciplinary think-tank functions as a research and teaching lab and claims a lead role in determining the future of our built environment. The Urban Future Lab employs three guiding principles — 1. Dialogue, 2. Geography, 3. Design-Citizen Agency and Public Interest Design — that have positively enhanced connections between the city, the community, our cultural entities, and UTSA, and built new partnerships to lead into the future.

“Our ambition is to activate new alliances and constituencies through dialogue with citizens, stakeholders, and policymakers, developing inclusive environments in which we discuss and ask questions about identity, sprawl, cultural sustainability, ecology, and mobility,” said Petrov. “We explore urban transformations from a geographical standpoint, considering questions of social and cultural equity while illuminating San Antonio’s most unique attributes. The Urban Future Lab proposes design not as an afterthought but one that is fully integrated, builds new capacities, addresses issues of equality, increases the economic vitality of communities, and fosters new ways to co-design and co-manage the spaces we live and work in.”

In conjunction with the Witte Museum’s upcoming Tricentennial exhibition, the Urban Future Lab and the Museum jointly present a speaker series, titled On the Edge of Future: Narratives of the Making of a City, that explores urban transformation processes and asks how public interest design can have agency in the metamorphosis of a city in transition. In a sequence of events and exhibitions, UTSA and the Witte will place dialogue into the center of our efforts; instrumentalize local, national, and international knowledge; and walk new territory as citizens and designers together in expanding the intellectual terrain. How are we, and other cities, implementing transformations? What are the challenges? And how can we preserve San Antonio’s core ethos while embracing change and progress?

On the Edge of Future: Narratives of the Making of a City, a three-part series, continues with the second event, “Urban Transformations,” on Monday, February 5, 2018 at 6 p.m in the Witte Museum's Prassel Auditorium. Speakers Iker Gil, director of MAS Studio, and Patty Heyda, associate professor at Washington University in St. Louis, will explore other cities that have undergone urban transformation. Gil will provide a comprehensive look at the history and transformation of Bilbao, discuss the role of the Guggenheim Museum, and look to the future. Heyda, co-author of Rebuilding the American City, will discuss ways cities are mobilizing and transforming amid challenges. Darryl Byrd of ULTRAte will bring the presented perspectives into local contexts and moderate a discussion between the speakers and audience. The series concludes with a third dialogue, “Water,” 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.