Client: Oxbow Development Group
Location: San Antonio , TX, United States
Completion date: 2022
Don B. Mcdonald
Don B. McDonald Architects
Ceramic Tile Murals
A good building will communicate the time and place of the people that built it. In this case, the Architect designed a small office building with two entrances off a major mid-town street that runs through the clay river bottom of the sleepy headwaters of the San Antonio River and was pivotal in the process of developing a team of local craftsmen to participate in the project.
After exploring a series of brick and stone solutions to the two Portals, a series of small tile murals on a nearby park bridge caught the Architect’s attention. After discovering that a neighborhood ceramicist had manufactured the murals in her back-yard kiln, she was approached about working on a more heroic scale. The artist and her team didn’t flinch and established a design that celebrates the plant and animal life at the Riparian edge of the nearby river. Additional kilns and a larger shop set up for the project allowed the team to work night and day to complete the project ahead of schedule.
Primary goal was to punctuate strategic moments in the new brick office building in order to bring life and vitality to an abandoned industrial neighborhood. San Antonio has a long history of articulating Building Entrances that began with the Spanish missions and continues today. These portals and tile inlay expand on that architectural history.
Second, Craftsmen and context play a major role in the Architect’s projects, so the idea of utilizing clay tile to communicate the evolution of tile and brick work in San Antonio was important. The ceramicist & team rose to the occasion to create murals that will engage the hearts and minds of the community for years to come.
Third, the intent was to create a building that will stand the test of time. The endearing and tactile tile murals are kiln fired and integrated into the masonry architecture designed to stand for hundreds of years.
The Architectural team is constantly in search of enduring materials. The work of the ceramicist began seeping their consciousness in the early part of the 21st century through a series of public art projects that exhibited a sense of playful permanence. They had purchased her vessels and platters for Interior projects but had not contemplated a commission. The tile work is with grog… a primitive clay that speaks directly to our landscape & communicates the hand of the creator. This representation of a time and place in San Antonio was especially appealing.
The Architectural team established a core philosophy and generally defined parameter of a craft project before inaugurating craftsman partnerships. In this case, the loose conversation with the Artist worked from day one. Several options were presented for consideration before running with a series of sketches evoking the Riparian Edge narrative. The project, the Architects Office and the kiln studio were all in the same neighborhood allowing for impromptu visits and exchanges throughout the process.