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San Antonio: Woodlawn Lake Dance Studio to be Replaced

Feature Illustration (above): Rendering from the entrance perspective of the new Recreation Center at Woodlawn Lake Park. Courtesy: Douglas Architects.

Posted: 6-18-2019

by Adolfo Pesquera

San Antonio (Bexar County) — A request is pending before the Historic and Design Review Commission for the demolition of the Berta Almaguer Dance Studio at Woodlawn Lake Park and concept approval of the designs for its replacement.

The new facility will be built in the same location, 138 S. Josephine Tobin, and will be approximately 9,500 square feet or roughly twice the area of the original.

Douglas Architects, the design firm, met with the Design Review Committee of the HDRC on January 22 to get feedback on its concept. Suggestions included incorporating the brick from the existing structure into the new proposed chimney element and integrating similar design details and elements, according the city staff report. The DRC also suggested integrating the large interior beams into the new structure in a non-structural way, and incorporating arches into the new beams to echo the existing beam design.

The exterior site plan (above), and the interior floor plan (below). Courtesy: Douglas Architects.

The DRC was not opposed to demolition but recognized the cultural and material significance of the existing structure.

Berta Almaguer Dance Studio, is a mid-century modern park structure designed by Reginald Roberts and built in 1955 for
the City of San Antonio. An application for demolition of this existing structure was submitted to the Office of
Historic Preservation (OHP) on May 17, 2019. On May 28, 2019, a request for review of historic significance was submitted by
a citizen.

The request is being brought forth to be heard by the HDRC on June 19, as a separate request item.

OHP recommends the city explore the possibility of incorporating the existing structure into the new construction proposal. The character defining features of the existing structure include the massive brick chimney with cap, exposed timber beams, glass panels, sweeping sloping roof line, and strong horizontality.

“These existing elements can be incorporated into a design proposal that features an addition or strategic exterior and interior modifications that do not require the total loss of the existing building,” OHP said.

South Elevation / Courtesy: Douglas Architects.

The architect proposes the new structure be made of a suspended concrete foundation over carton forms. The primary structure will be exposed steel columns and girders, (but possibly wood clad), with steel purlins and metal deck.

Above the metal deck will be rigid, continuous insulation and a standing seam metal roof. The metal roof will be an approved, cool-roof finish and will slope and divert rainwater into several water catchment cisterns.

Exterior cladding will be ceramic or metal panels, with tan brick at the monumental “chimney” and at the side entrances, similar to the existing structure.

Fenestration will be thermally broken, aluminum storefront or aluminum-clad wood, with insulated triple-glazing.

The rhythm and spacing of mullions will resemble the original wood windows.

At the entry, where the corner of the largest dance studio is located, and along the east-facing clerestory, insulated translucent panels, such as Kalwall, will be used to provide internal illumination, mitigate heat gain and provide privacy for the occupants.

A new patio on the east side will be added to overlook and fully embrace the beautiful casting pond, directly to the east.

The brick chimney, low-sloped roofs, deep overhangs, large window pattern and views to the casting pond will all hearken back to some of the best elements of the existing building.

The existing significant features could not be replicated through demolition and new construction but instead incorporated into a design proposal that retains and adapts some or all of the existing building.

View of the dance studio. Courtesy: Douglas Architects.

Landscaping: A new sidewalk and street trees will be added, along with a bio-retention rain garden and water catchment cisterns.

Interpretive Element: The existing structure is significant to the cultural heritage and image of San Antonio, OHP said.  The design must include an interpretative element. A gallery of images and video paying tribute to Berta Almaguer should be incorporated in the lobby (or other highly visible and sizeable area approved by HDRC).

The gallery should include interpretative text describing Ms. Almaguer’s contributions to the cultural heritage of San Antonio using research and materials existing in archives of the City of San Antonio Parks and Recreation Department.

View of the lounge. Courtesy: Douglas Architects.