Solar Powered Pavilions That Also Collect Rainwater

  • July 27th, 2018
Outside sculpture with lighting at dusk

Wander around San Antonio’s Confluence Park and you’re bound to notice the sweeping sculptural pavilions that provide shade from the fierce Texas sun – and what you’ll quickly learn, is that they also act as an elegant method for collecting rainwater.

Located at the confluence of the San Antonio River and San Pedro creek, the riverside park covers over three acres and incorporates multiple pavilions and an education space. 

Collaboratively designed by Lake Flato, Matsys and Rialto Studio, the firms have used the idea of flowing water as a source of inspiration for the design and details of the park – from the petal-like forms of the pavilions to the layout of the pavers.

The main pavilion structure consists of 22 precast concrete panels that were created onsite and lifted into place. The pieces form giant archways that are illuminated at night with subtle accent lighting that merges seamlessly into the swooping petal formations.

The ‘petals’ not only provide much needed shade, but also help to funnel rainwater into the park’s water catchment system. The water catchment system serves as the primary source of water throughout the park.

Not only do the pavilions have minimal impact on the land in which they are sited, they have minimal impact on the environment too, as the lighting is powered from the solar panels located on the nearby Estella Avery Education Centre. The education centre generates 100 percent of the energy the park uses through solar panels, while offering a space for the city’s residents to learn more about the San Antonio River watershed and the surrounding environment. The green roof of the classroom is also covered with native grasses and allows for passive cooling through thermal mass.

Through observation, engagement and active participation, visitors gain a greater understanding of the ecotypes local to the area and are offered an abundance of different themed sites and activities to enjoy. “Confluence Park is here to tell the story of why this place matters. Why water and resource education matters. Why telling stories to our children matters,” said Robert Amerman, executive director of the river foundation, which spearheaded the project. The public park is a destination for learning and recreation, inspiring visitors while teaching environmental science and sustainability.