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Students Present Designs To Replace Historic Building By Main Plaza

UTSA College of Architecture students could have a hand in designing a new structure to replace the historic Wolfson building that was destroyed by fire in 2011.

Last Wednesday, the sophomore class of UTSA Architecture students presented their final scale models and renderings of a new building for a juried competition at the Radius Center.

The students were judged on designs for a modern office building that would fill the narrow space that still remains a gaping hole on the edge of Main Plaza.

"What an incredible site - facing Main Plaza, accessible to the Riverwalk," said Andres Andujar, design engineer and CEO of the Hemisfair Park Area Redevelopment Corporation who was a juror in the competition. "This plaza has our cathedral and the City Chamber, and so now you’re studying one of the facades of that original square of San Antonio. How fun!

"It’s wedged between two fire walls and a busy street. What do you do? What I observed was a lot of design went to a podium and a higher building set back to create a terrace, south-facing, enjoying the plaza, and I thought, 'That’s pretty cool. It works.' But then there were variations to it," Andujar said.

Students incorporated outdoor spaces in their designs along with modern, artistic entries, and properly shaded exteriors to address the sun on the west and south-facing walls.

UTSA College of Architecture Lecturer Jim Dawes said students also were challenged to design a complex, modern interior with recreational and serendipitous meeting spaces to encourage staff interaction.

"A multi-story low-rise or mid-rise building to house a corporate headquarters for a new business model company. So think of the tech companies, the creative advertising companies," Dawes said.

"We’re not looking at the practical financing at this level, but it’s nice to pick ideas from different points of view," said Paul Carter, who owned the Wolfson Building.

Carter said it’s possible some of the ideas presented by the students could make it into the final design. He contributed the prize money for the students.

"As we try to market the property or develop the property, it's nice to have those ideas out there for the developers and other architects to look at," Carter said.

Students will get more than an 'A' on their projects. The first-place design will receive a $300 prize, and there are cash prizes for second and third-place designs.