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Arts & Culture

City Floats New Barge Design

The city unveiled its new river barge this morning.

Speakers blared Tina Turner's Rollin' on the River as the city's bright new prototype coasted under Rosita's Bridge and docked at the Arneson River Theatre. Dozens of dignitaries and city leaders unloaded and spoke, starting with Mayor Ivy Taylor.

The new design is bold, innovative, and reflects the character of San Antonio and its people.

City Manager Sheryl Scully reminded us of how the city had collaborated with the American Institute of Architects on the project.  

A distinguished panel of jurors selected the Top 3 proposals from a pool of 12 anonymous submissions. The finalists came, showcased their designs to the public at an open house this spring. 

After public input, a design created by Houston firm Metalab was chosen. Director of Design Scott Key hadn't designed barges yet, so this was his first move.

"We quickly hired a naval architect who had spent his whole life building boats, and worked with a really experienced boat manufacturer out of Louisiana," Key says.

The ADA compliant barge sits much higher than the current barge generation, and the colors stand out. Bright yellow steel plates surrounding the barge are cut into papel picado designs. But Key suggests there may be additional iterations.

"One of the things that the mayor is particularly excited about is seeing, if the Spurs win the championship--I'm sorry--when the Spurs win the championship again, that they'll replace the rails with things that fit the current mood of San Antonio," Key says.

This prototype will spend all of August driving the river as a test. Any changes needed will be reflected in the subsequent 44 barges completed by next September prior to the tricentennial celebration in 2018.