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Arts & Culture

Have You Taken The Time To Notice This Bridge?

You’ve probably seen it often, perhaps even driven over it daily. But have you ever really stopped and looked at it?

“There are four columns on the Houston Street Bridge, and each one was to represent one of the Missions in San Antonio,” states Malou Flato.

Twenty-three years ago Flato designed the tiles that were placed on the outside of the columns.

“And then David Lake thought I should have a map on each one saying how far downstream each mission was from that bridge,” he continues.

David Lake is partner with Lake Flato Architects, and yes, Ted Flato is Malou’s brother. The columns are poured concrete with painted tile on the outside, and as Flato explained, each has a different Mission on it.

“The San Jose Mission is based on the Rose Window that’s at the Mission, so that column is mainly reds and pinks" Malou said. "If you really look closely at the column you’ll see the Rose Window.”

I asked her if she had to design, paint and fire each tile.

“That’s correct," Malou said, "yeah, I have a kiln.”

Each column also has a glass light fixture at the top of it.

“Drew Patterson—I believe I suggested Drew to them (Lake|Flato Architects), and he cast the glass,” she continued.

The only problem was, the concrete columns didn’t get poured properly, and only due to Lake|Flato’s efforts was a minor disaster averted.

“When the guys poured the actual columns though, they made them too big” Malou explained.

The tiles Ms. Flato had created were at a specific dimension to fit properly on the columns. As she explained, when they didn't fit, the concrete contractor was compelled to make the columns right.

“Yeah, and so it was a big deal when they had to shave them down so they would fit the tiles, but it made all the difference in the world,” stated Flato.

The Bridge spans the San Antonio River just west of the Hotel Valencia downtown.

For more on Ms. Flato's work: http://malouflato.com/