San Antonio Conservation Society

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For this week’s Familiar Façade Friday we look at two buildings whose architects embraced the opportunity to adapt their designs to local rivers.

Designed by James Riely Gordon and completed in 1891 along the banks of the San Antonio River, the Clifford Building is one of the earliest examples of a local building that embraces the San Antonio River as an integral element in its design. The Romanesque revival building features repeated arched windows that follow a rounded corner with a rusticated base that supports three levels; the top level being a gallery with a 180-degree view downriver.

The Bode Museum in Berlin, designed by Ernst von Ihne in 1904, demonstrates a similar attention to site by embracing the prominent location at the western peninsula of Museum Island. The neoclassical Bode Museum also features repeated arches on the rounded corner, and the combination of these two architectural elements simultaneously acknowledge the importance of the river and of pedestrians.

By adapting the Clifford Building to the landscape, Gordon acknowledged the connection to the San Antonio River and allowed the building to age gracefully into use as Robert Hugman's office as he oversaw the construction of the San Antonio Riverwalk. This connection to the river would prove beneficial as Downtown San Antonio assumed the role as the tourist destination that it currently fulfills.
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