Our Own Backyard

Landmark San Antonio garden has designs on prestigious global award

Landmark San Antonio garden has designs on prestigious global award

Stuart Allen Play San Antonio Hemisfair
Part of the "Play" public art project. Courtesy photo

In a time when outdoor public spaces are more important than ever, San Antonio is lucky to have a landmark like the Yanaguana Garden at Hemisfair. Now it appears the design world agrees. 

On May 22, the Yanaguana Garden was one of only eight public spaces in North America to be deemed a finalist for the prestigious Urban Land Institute Open Space Award 2020. The global competition is designed to seek out places "instrumental in promoting healthy, sustainable and equitable outcomes in communities."

Projects must be mostly outdoors and operational for at least one year to be eligible. The 2020 competition attracted more than 50 applicants. 

Yanaguana Garden has been open since 2015, but plans for the revitalization of Hemisfair have been underway since 2009 when the city council approved the creation of the Hemisfair Park Area Redevelopment Corporation. To lead the ambitious project, the city turned to California-based MIG Inc. to craft the design. 

In the past decade, Hemisfair — and the 4.1-acre garden — have become a destination for residents and tourists alike, thanks in part to its use as a community gathering place.

As the ULI press release notes, Yanaguana Garden is more than just a green space, it also "incorporates and preserves several historic structures [and] homes." It also repurposes multiple 1968 World’s Fair venues as locations for restaurants, retail, and "other park-activating amenities to attract and engage visitors." The garden has also provided the backdrop for a massive public art project called "Play," a series of eight public artwork installations that unveiled its final piece in 2018.

Along with Yanaguana Garden, the following seven North American projects were nominated: 

  • Domino Park — Brooklyn 
  • Historic Fourth Ward Park — Atlanta 
  • Julian B. Lane Riverfront Park — Tampa
  • Salesforce Park — San Francisco
  • Trojan Park — St. Louis, Missouri
  • Uptown Normal Redevelopment — Normal, Illinois
  • West Eau Claire Park — Calgary, Alberta, Canada

A jury will name the winner of the ULI Urban Open Space Awards Competition in October. The winning project will also receive a $10,000 prize.