Rivard Report ; by Nicholas Frank January 15, 2019
Mario Schjetnan’s exhibit Reconciliar Ciudad y Naturaleza, shown here during its run in Mexico City in 2018, will open at the Mexican Cultural Institute on Jan. 17. Credit: Courtesy / Urban Design Group and Mexican Cultural Institute
Given renowned landscape architect Mario Schjetnan’s focus on balancing design and nature, he was a natural choice to serve as a consultant on the San Pedro Creek Culture Park, according to Henry Muñoz, chief executive officer of the project’s lead architect Muñoz & Company.
The multi-phase, public-private improvement project aims to transform San Pedro Creek from a concrete-lined drainage ditch into a natural habitat and linear park. After Muñoz & Company presented plans, the San Antonio River Authority, which manages the project, brought in Schjetnan to help shape the design with a more naturalistic look.
Now, the Mexican Cultural Institute will honor Schjetnan with an exhibition featuring his work with Mexico City-based Urban Design Group. Titled Reconciliar Ciudad y Naturaleza (Reconciling City and Nature), the exhibition opens Jan. 17 with a public reception from 6-9 p.m. Schjetnan will deliver opening remarks at the event.
Schjetnan has drawn notice for his work in Mexico City, particularly on historic Chapultepec Park and the Parque Bicentenario, described by Mexico City’s government as “un espacio de convivencia natural” (a space of natural coexistence) due to the ample green space it introduces into the populous city.
According to environmental blog The Dirt, “Schjetnan has the wisdom to let the vegetation be the agent of design.” As director of Urban Design Group, his innovative landscape design focuses on sustainability and integrating the cultural history of a place with its modern potential.
Rather than being called a consultant, Schjetnan’s title might more appropriately be described as “design conscience” for the San Pedro Creek project, Muñoz said.
“When we saw Mario’s rich portfolio of work, his experience of working with waterways, of creating places around water, his knowledge of what I will call the ‘cultural voice’ of water in the Americas, we thought this would be a wonderful person to collaborate with,” Muñoz said.
Muñoz said Schjetnan played a major role in the Tree of Life Plaza portion of the Culture Park – also known as Tricentennial Plaza – which signifies San Antonio’s family tree and traces the origins of the 300-year old community near that location on the creek.
“None of that would have been refined without Mario’s input, and I’m really happy that there’s an exhibition in San Antonio that brings attention to the role he played as San Pedro Creek’s conscience,” Muñoz said.
Reconciliar Ciudad y Naturaleza will be on view Jan. 17 to Mar. 17. Admission to the Mexican Cultural Institute, located in Hemisfair, is free.