On the Edge of Future: The Missions

A proposal envisioning a future for the UNESCO World Heritage site, San Antonio and adjacent communities.


Texas gained its first UNESCO World Heritage site in 2015 when the historic early 18th-century San Antonio Missions were so designated — only the 23rd in the United States overall. Recently a coalition of UTSA faculty experts initiated the San Antonio Missions Research Consortium, a group dedicated to the study, protection, and enhancement of the universal value of these Missions.

To coincide with San Antonio’s Tricentennial in 2018 the Urban Future Lab — an urban think tank and innovative teaching lab housed in the UTSA College of Architecture, Construction and Planning (CACP) — is working towards a partnership with the Harvard University Graduate School of Design to develop a masterplan and urban design proposal for the buffer zone of the inscribed UNESCO World Heritage Cultural Sites in San Antonio. In this collaboration, all entities will draw from each other’s expertise within the fields of architecture, urban design and planning, landscape architecture, preservation, and hydrology. Financial commitments to this project ensure that the future of the Missions and surrounding communities will be properly preserved and the UTSA CACP will position itself as a thought-leader in matters related to the future of civic affairs, urban design, and urban development.

To highlight the vital role of history and preservation, these efforts will be undertaken in close collaboration with the UTSA Center for Cultural Sustainability (CCS), an entity housed in the CACP which is leading the consortium. Several along with other UTSA research centers are involved as well, such as the Center for Urban and Regional Planning Research, Center for Archaeological Research, Institute of Texan Cultures, and the Institute for Economic Development. Collectively, UTSA faculty members have already published more than 50 scholarly works and 20 research reports on the San Antonio Missions, and several active research studies are in progress in diverse fields like archaeology, architecture, public policy, tourism marketing, and art history.

Working with experts at local, national, and international levels, the Urban Future Lab, the CCS, and UTSA consortium members will conduct research and create plans, proposals, and educational materials to envision a future for San Antonio, the sites of our World Heritage Missions, San Antonio, and adjacent communities. We aim to provide insights which will expand available expertise and utilize the latest technology, while respecting the need for cultural continuity.


  • Expansion of the San Antonio Missions Research Consortium on collaborations to fill knowledge gaps, enhance universal values, promote education, and sustain the connection of people to heritage


  • UTSA Urban Future Lab Tricentennial exhibition at the Witte Museum


  • Urban Future Lab speaker series at the Witte Museum, titled On the Edge of Future: Narratives of the Making of a City


  • Community events, faculty engagement, and additional showcasing of UTSA CACP student work will highlight history, preservation, and future as part of the Tricentennial


  • Symposia on the history/preservation and the future of urban development and the Missions


  • Publication of a book, titled Narratives of the Making of a City, and other promotional materials to highlight the unique contributions of San Antonio and the Missions to Texas and the United States