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Yanaguana Garden at Hemisfair

Landscape Performance Benefits


  • Captures, infiltrates, and evaporates an estimated 34% of average annual rainfall using infiltration basins and permeable play surfaces.
  • Keeps air temperatures on a typical June day an average of 7°F cooler in the morning and 12°F cooler in the afternoon than air temperatures in an adjacent park without mature trees.


  • Supports increased visitorship to Hemisfair, with a 13% increase from the first to second year of operation (2016-2017) and a 44% increase from the second to third (2017-2018). Hemisfair hosted 1,079 events from 2015-2018 with over 600 additional events anticipated by the end of 2019.
  • Encourages interaction between previously unacquainted visitors. At least 28% of 368 visitors were observed making new connections with other visitors on two June days.
  • Encourages physical activity, with 69% of 368 visitors on two June days observed as being very active (48%) or walking (21%).
  • Provides educational and cultural value. 65% of 82 surveyed visitors agreed that the art in the garden has helped them understand the site’s cultural and historical importance.
  • Has a high or very high aesthetic quality for 95% of 82 surveyed visitors who were asked to rate the beauty or attractiveness of the garden.
  • Allows visitors to access, use, and enjoy all play features according to 94% of 82 surveyed visitors. Through interviews, 3 visitors who identified as having a disability reported that they felt the site was accessible.
  • Contributes to an increase in social media engagement for Hemisfair as demonstrated by a 34% increase in social media followers, an 80% increase in social media interactions, and a 48% increase in direct messages sent and received from 2018 to 2019.


  • Contributed to a 50% average increase in assessed property value for 74 randomly selected parcels within a two-block radius from 2015 to 2019.
  • Catalyzes visitor spending, with 82% of 82 surveyed visitors reporting patronizing businesses and restaurants within a 2-block radius of Yanaguana Garden.
  • Contributed to a 182% increase in the median property tax revenue for owner-occupied homes in the surrounding census tracts from 2013 to 2017, compared to an 8% increase for Bexar County as a whole.
  • Helped to catalyze the establishment of at least 4 new businesses within a 3-block radius and 6 small and minority-owned businesses on-site.

At a Glance

  • Designer


  • Project Type

    Park/Open space

  • Former Land Use


  • Location

    434 Alamo St.
    San Antonio, Texas 78205
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  • Climate Zone

    Humid subtropical

  • Size

    4.1 acres

  • Budget

    $6 million

  • Completion Date


Yanaguana Garden is a 4.1-acre park within the 19.2-acre Hemisfair District in San Antonio, Texas, and it is the first phase of implementation for the Hemisfair Area Master Plan. Built on a portion of the site of the 1968 World’s Fair, Yanaguana Garden replaced a 1970s-era children’s play structure with a series of linked and flexible spaces that provide opportunities to play and socialize for people of all ages, abilities, and backgrounds. The park is named for Yanaguana, a Payaya Indian village that was located in the area that became San Antonio. The park serves to catalyze social relationships and encourages play among different age groups. Active and passive play spaces are set among preserved mature trees, early 18th-century buildings and acequia, and modern multistory housing. San Antonio’s Payaya creation myth is expressed through interactive sculptural elements, and installations by local artists augment the sense of community and cultural expression.


  • Provide a spirited environment that children and adults can enjoy together, while promoting learning and exploration of the history, arts, and culture of San Antonio.
  • Highlight play as a universal language and create an equitable space where children, families, and singles of all shapes and sizes, no matter their cultural heritage, age, or physical ability, feel welcome, inspired, and challenged to play.
  • Create a multilayered experience for diverse audiences throughout the day and evening, with the flexibility to host a variety of programs.
  • Support the economic development of Hemisfair through small business opportunities and local business improvement from increased visitorship.
  • Preserve and integrate the adjacent historic buildings and the site’s historical acequia.
  • Utilize sustainable principles including the preservation of existing mature trees, water conservation techniques, and stormwater management to protect water quality for the San Antonio River. 
  • The garden accommodates a variety of programmed and impromptu activities through a multipurpose play lawn, a large central courtyard, and a series of plazas. The trellis-covered River Promenade is designed to allow event tents to be set up along its length, so that together with the central courtyard, the garden can host large festivals and parties.
  • The system for the splash pad area of the park is designed to recycle and treat all water to swimming pool standards (or higher). 19 computer-controlled solenoids supply water at different flow rates to numerous spray features. This water is returned to a 4,000-gallon underground storage tank that is connected to a centralized filtration system that processes all 4,000 gallons every 30 minutes. As the water is filtered, it also passes through ultraviolet treatment and testing. Should poor water quality be detected anywhere in the system, the spray activation system shuts down until the filtration system determines that water quality has returned to acceptable levels. 
  • The design incorporates bioswales at critical collection points around the site to manage stormwater runoff. Some of the plants in the bioswale include Gulf Coast muhly (Muhlenbergia capillaris), Lindheimer’s muhly (Muhlenbergia Lindheimeri), and liriope (Liriope muscari).
  • The park has a mature tree canopy due to the preservation of most of the site’s existing mature trees. To supplement the existing trees, two mature trees were saved from nearby demolition sites and transplanted in Yanaguana Garden. An additional 16 new trees were planted including cedar elm (Ulmus Crassifolia), Mexican white oak (Quercus Polymorpha), and Texas mountain laurel (Sophora secundiflora).
  • Vegetation on the site is 100% native or adaptive drought-tolerant plants including century plant (Agave americana), Mexican feather grass (Nassella tenuissima), and red yucca (Herperaloe parviflora). Plants are irrigated by an efficient, purple-pipe recycled water system with subsurface drip and weather monitor control.
  • The garden includes a variety of seating options and site furnishings designed to fit visitors of all shapes and sizes and encourage them to stay and socialize. Movable furnishings allow users to customize seating for their needs.
  • Sinuous mosaic-covered concrete seat walls create a seating pattern that encourages social interaction. The mosaic pattern on the seat walls represents the Blue Hole, the spring that is the source of the San Antonio River. The popular “Pantera Azul”, a large mosaic panther, represents the blue panther that chased the water bird out of the Blue Hole in the Payaya creation myth. 
  • Play features include standard manufactured equipment such as swings and net climbers as well as custom elements such as a modern-style playhouse and an acequia water play element. Historically, an acequia is a Spanish colonial water channel for water and irrigation conveyance, but at Yanaguana Garden it is reinterpreted as a play element for the celebration of water. These play features are found within an inland “beach” with sand and natural boulders, and they are designed to attract and engage a range of ages. The larger play features are challenging enough to attract teens and even some adults.
  • Water is also used as a catalyst for play in the Waterworks Area, which includes another play acequia, water wall, and waterfall. A large sand pit is located just outside of this area. Additional areas for group play include the Games Porch with oversize checkers and chess boards, the Young Children’s Play Village, and the Play Square.
  • Yanaguana Garden is host to a specially-commissioned art collection known as PLAY at Yanaguana, featuring 8 audio, visual, and interactive pieces designed by local artists. The collection includes a mural on an exterior restroom wall entitled “Yanaguana”, “Kite Table” which consists of a plate-steel picnic table etched with kite-making instructions from around the world, a collection of 4 powder-coated steel pup tents entitled “Sky”, and an electro-acoustic sound installation abstracted from children’s voices and birdsong. 
  • The area surrounding the site, Hemisfair, makes use of several historic buildings and homes built around 1720 in addition to preserved World’s Fair buildings (including the Tower of the Americas, the State of Texas Pavilion, and the former U.S. Pavilion complex) as locations for restaurants, cafes, bookstores, food trucks, and activities to attract and engage visitors.

Hemisfair is an urban district with parks and open spaces, local businesses, and residences in downtown San Antonio. The Hemisfair Area Master Plan was created in 2012 to strategically catalyze three major phases of redevelopment within the park. The overall goals of the plan include the preservation and reuse of historic structures and features, providing public space with diverse programs, developing a mixed-use neighborhood, improving connectivity, and overall sustainable development. To facilitate these goals, the Master Plan also includes an overall circulation strategy, open space strategy, land use plan, infrastructure and services breakdown, design and development guidelines, and economic and financing plans. Yanaguana Garden is the first of the three major phases of redevelopment, and it was completed and opened to the public in the fall of 2015. The second phase will be a civic park situated to the north of Yanaguana Garden that will compliment the garden’s focus on play and provide a larger space for a broader range of activities and programs. The third phase will be a tower park (which currently encompasses the Tower of the Americas, one of San Antonio’s most prominent landmarks) that will allow for additional open space surrounding a series of historic structures and pavilions.

  • Part of the project’s initial vision was to collaborate with local artists to establish Yanaguana as a “crossroads of creative energy that epitomizes Hemisfair’s role as a ‘confluence of cultures.’” During the project, the artist selection process and review of work proposals was guided by Public Art San Antonio with only a little input from the garden’s design team. The result was that some of the pieces felt less integrated with the site than others. Some of the most successful pieces were those created by Oscar Alvarado that tell Yanaguana’s creation story , including the “Pantera Azul” along with the sinuous mosaic bench that winds through the active play space. Mr. Alvarado collaborated with the design team, Hemisfair, and Payaya leadership to create pieces that allow cultural expression to become something that everyone touches and interacts with personally when they visit, leading to an overall richer experience.
  • From the beginning, the project’s aim was to provide shade for the garden by utilizing existing mature trees as much as possible. This was based on a desire to create a locally-rooted, natural experience and to use resources wisely, both in terms of sustainability and minimizing costs associated with fabricated shade elements. While mostly successful, a few areas would have benefited from additional shade. The central plaza is one space in particular that would benefit from an additional fabricated shade element similar to the structure that covers the central spine.
  • Although mature trees were able to provide some shade to the large “Loop” play structure, the black slide was reaching temperatures in excess of 150°F during the hottest part of the day when the park first opened. The client later added a shade/art element to the slide. While this added element is effective and supports Yanaguana’s celebration of local artists, coordination during the main design phase would have avoided any interruption in access to the slide, and it also would have made it possible to consider a wider range of design solutions.
  • In play settings, addressing the needs of parents and adults is a key part of achieving success. By providing multiple vantage points along the play area’s edges and along the promenade area, not only can parents and adults comfortably sit and watch their children roam from activity to activity, but it has also provided economic development opportunities for small businesses selling food and beverages at the perimeter. The result is longer stays and greater activation of the area.

Lighting: American Lighting; American LitePole; Architectural Area Lighting; BEGA; Landscape Forms; Lithonia Lighting; Lumascape; Luminii; Technilum
Sales representative (manufactured play elements): Recreation Republic, Inc.; Wonderscapes Recreation, Inc.
Spinner Bowl and Corocord Boomerang Climber: Kompan 
Dizygotic Net Climber, Biggo Spia Duo Disc Swings, Mini-Apollo Spinning Net Climber: Dynamo Playgrounds
Safety surfacing: No Fault Sport Group LLC; Fibar Playground Surfaces
Traditional swings: Landscape Structures
Water spray play equipment: Vortex Aquatic Structures
Loose parts play blue blocks: Imagination Playground
Giant chess and checkers pieces:
Custom precast sphere: Quickcrete Products Corp.
Foosball table, ping pong table: Bravado Outdoor Products LLC
Benches: Victor Stanley, Inc.
Bike racks: Maglin
Drinking fountain and activation bollard at sand play: Most Dependable Fountains, Inc.
Loose “Adirondack” seating: Poly-Wood, LLC
Movable cafe tables and chairs: HPARC
Decorative CMU blocks: Headwaters Construction Materials
Paving: Stabilizer Solutions (dg paving binder); Alamo Concrete Products (concrete paving); L.M. Scofield Company (concrete color); Pavestone Company (precast concrete pavers)
Limestone: I-10 Stone Source
Irrigation System: Hunter Industries; Netafim
Restroom building: American Standard; Astra-Glaze-SW+ (Trenwyth); AVAdek; Bradley Corporation; Kohler; Sloan Valve Company; Armour Gates, Inc. 

Project Team

Client: Hemisfair Redevelopment Corporation
Client: City of San Antonio Transportation & Capital Improvements Department
Landscape architect/design team/prime/design lead: MIG, Inc. 
Planting and irrigation: Bender Wells Clark Design
Electrical and lighting: CNG Engineering, PLLC
Restroom building/design: Duende Design Architects, Inc.
Civil engineering: HDR, Inc.
Structural engineering: Intelligent Engineering Services
Mosaic artist: Oscar Alvarado
Water spray play equipment design: Vortex Aquatic Structures
Community workshop team: Ximenes & Associates, Inc.
Central trellis design: Overland Partners
General contractor: JOERIS General Contractors
Art installation: Six artists assembled by lead artist Stuart Allen. Artists include: Oscar Alvarado, Justin Boyd, Joey Fauerso, Jennifer Khoshbin, Karen Mahaffy, and Alex Rubio. 

Role of the Landscape Architect

The landscape architect was the project’s design lead and prime. In addition to leading design coordination and owner communication, the landscape architect developed the project vision and concept; designed and detailed the paving, walls, plazas and play area elements; and specified associated materials, furnishings, and finishes.


Stormwater management, Temperature & urban heat island, Recreational & social value, Health & well-being, Educational value, Scenic quality & views, Access & equity, Other social, Property values, Visitor spending, Increased tax revenue, Economic development, Public art, Play equipment, Shade structure, Rainwater harvesting, Permeable paving, Bioretention, Native plants, Local materials, Efficient irrigation, Active living, Aging, Placemaking, Play, Revitalization, Social equity

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