Gift from Sister City in South Korea, Pavilion Built with Traditional Craft a n t o n i o Nearly 20 years after signing a sister city relationship agreement between city of San Antonio and South Korean city of Gwangju, a replica of a traditional Korean pavilion as a gift of friendship from Gwangju is nearing completion. Several sites, including one downtown, were considered before a suitable location was found on the pastoral grounds of the Denman Family Park, a municipal park in northwest San Antonio. The 20-acre Denman estate was owned by philanthropist Gilbert Denman until his death in 2004. Parceled into two properties in 2007, 12.5 acres were purchased by the City of San Antonio and the remaining acreage was bought by the University of the Incarnate Word. Now, three years later, the land will open as a public park in October. The pedestrian approach from the site’s car park takes visitors through a carefully orchestrated promenade. One’s first impression, from the meandering path around the grounds’ man-made pond, is that the pavilion radiates tranquility and serenity. The pavilion’s simple order is clearly evident. Twelve massive foundation posts rest on granite stones and support the floor and decorative railing, which unite visually to form a strong horizontal plane that appears to float five feet above the ground. Twelve elegantly proportioned timber columns support the gently curving dark clay roof. According to Christopher Kimm, AIA, principal of WestEast Design in San Antonio, who served as the coordinating architect for the project and helped site the structure, the upwardly curving roofline is a unique feature of Korean pavilion architecture and its tradition dates back 400 years. The approach path continues to a traditional gray granite fence and a ceremonial portal. Beyond the portal, a short flight of stairs bisects a courtyard and leads visitors to the plinth on which the pavilion rests. The roughly 24x35foot plinth is made of gray granite and partially engages the pond’s water edge. From this point, the exquisite character of the pavilion is fully evident. It was constructed by two groups of Korean craftsmen who are regarded in Korea as “national treasures” for their rare skill. The first group of eleven craftsmen constructed the structure from prefabricated pine members shipped to San
Photos courtesy WestEast Design
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(clockwise from top) Craftsmen from South Korea adorned the pavilion with colors, symbols, and motifs as in the traditional manner of their native country. The final touches prepared the pavilion for its public unveiling in October at the Denman Family Park in San Antonio just north of the intersection of I-10 and Loop 410. Unique features of the design date back 400 years and include the upward curve of the roofline.
A ntonio from South Korea. Traditionally, no nails or mechanical fasteners are used to secure the pavilion’s structural members. The second group included seven craftsmen who were charged with painting the structure with traditional Korean colors, symbols, and motifs. Though applied with fine brushes and astonishing precision, the pavilion is technically stained, not painted.
The most striking features of the structure are the massive columns (old-growth red pine from a Canadian forest that was milled in South Korea) carved to perfectly fit the granite boulders, also shipped from South Korea, on which the 79-ton building rests by sheer gravitational force. continued on page 90
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