Thursday, January 26, 2012

A Runner's Ode to San Antonio's River Walk

Prefatory note: if you only want to read about the Smart Grid and/or security, you'll want to skip this post.

Because it's only about how I came to an electric sector industry conference, and, running sneakers in hand (so to speak), fell in love with an amazing concept, that's equal parts hydraulic engineering, design, landscape architecture, and xeriscaping, all coming together to express a colossal and coherent artistic vision.

That's the River Walk. which you can read about here on its official site, or for something a little less promotional, here's its page on Wikipedia. Many folks pass through quickly and think it's just a glittery and gimmicky place to which one comes to consume a few mariachi-accompanied margaritas. Oh how wrong they are.

To a native Bostonian such as myself, the first and best comparison, I think, is to the work of the landscape architecture rock star of his age, Frederick Law Olmstead and his fantastic Emerald Necklace.  Of course, the two projects are in some ways nothing alike, separated as they are separated by at least a century and two thousand miles of latitude and longitude.

But for me, it's like Olmstead drank a shot of picante sauce (mild, not too spicy), chased it with a little citrus, guac and mole, and then, in an ecstatic Tex/Mex vision, went right to work. Of course, as Wikipedia reveals (and some locals just know), it wasn't Olmstead or any other city-slicking easterner who conjured up the River Walk, but rather San Antonio native and architect Robert Hugman, who, with a little help from mother nature and the WPA, got this thing off the ground.

In 2012, though I understand one wouldn't want to swim in it, let alone drink it, the walks and grounds are virtually immaculate, and several species of exotic birds seem to enjoy calling it home. On my third and final run in as many days, as I approached a large highway bridge, I came upon the most amazing school of dozens of colorful fish, each about 5 feet long and floating below the bridge but well above my head, suspended by thin wires, transforming an otherwise bleak urban landcape into yet another place of wonder. The whole creation is full of subtle and sometimes less than subtle touches like this.

All I can say is I plan to return, whether or not work takes me here again or not.

Photo credit: Mike Tex on