San Antonio Names Three Finalists in International River Barge Design Competition

SAN ANTONIO  (Feb. 24, 2016) – The City of San Antonio and the San Antonio chapter of The American Institute of Architects (AIA San Antonio) announced the three finalist teams foar the international design competition to re-imagine the river barge experience. The competition challenged designers to develop an innovative design for a new river barge fleet.

“This innovative approach to river travel is creating a sustainable future for San Antonio and our world-famous River Walk,” said Mayor Ivy R. Taylor. “The new river barges will create an outstanding transportation option, with the possibility of allowing some residents to commute to work on an all-electric barge. The new fleet will honor the original 1920s River Walk design as San Antonio prepares for its Tricentennial in 2018.”

In the first phase of the competition, teams were given three months to develop a design concept for a new river barge fleet. Concepts were submitted without logos, names or any other proprietary information to offer anonymity to the jury. A distinguished panel of jurors, made up of community leaders, artists, hospitality industry representatives and architects, selected the top three proposals from the 12 anonymous submissions received. Their design concepts, which are all electric, were selected based on design innovation, functionality, operational and program capabilities and sensitivity to San Antonio’s culture.  The finalists are:

  • METALAB (Houston, TX)
  • Luna Architecture + Design (San Antonio, TX) with Lay Pittman & Associates (Neptune Beach, FL)
  • Sadi Brewton + Jonathan Davies (Austin, TX)

“The first phase of the competition yielded progressive design ideas from across the nation, adapted specifically for our unique city,” said Christine Viña, AIA San Antonio President. “The submission concepts ranged from historic to contemporary and many offered innovative new concepts for barge uses. We look forward to seeing the full expression of the finalist teams’ visions in the next phase of this competition.”

The three selected finalists will each receive $7,500 to further develop their designs and will be required to submit a 3-D physical model, detailed renderings, technical specifications, cost estimate for construction, branding and materials samples. Although the jury is now aware of the finalists’ names, the names are not attributed to a particular design to maintain some anonymity in the second phase of the competition. The finalists will showcase their designs to the public during an open house at AIA’s Center for Architecture Gallery at 1344 S. Flores Street on March 28th from 6:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. where community members will be able to ask the finalists questions about their designs.

Each finalist will present the developed concept to the jury, and the competition winner will be announced by Friday, April 2nd. Each of the three finalists will receive a cash prize and the winning team will develop its design through construction.

Upon selection of the winning design, the City will issue two Requests for Proposal (RFP). The first RFP will be issued for the procurement of the barge fleet. The City will issue a second RFP for operation and programming of the barge fleet. The timing for both RFPs is late April. 

“The new river barge is an asset that belongs to all of San Antonio,” said Roberto C. Treviño, District 1 City Councilman and architect. “The open house is an opportunity for our citizens to provide input on which design they feel represents San Antonio. Design teams were challenged to think beyond aesthetics and truly transform the river barge experience for the next generation. Community feedback on the design is critical to a successful outcome.”

To learn more about the San Antonio River Barge Design Competition and see the official jury list, visit 

About the San Antonio River Walk

Designed by architect Robert H. H. Hugman, AIA, in the 1920s and constructed between 1938 and 1940, the San Antonio River Walk is one of the City’s most distinguishing features and is among the highest rated tourist attractions in the state of Texas. Since its earliest beginnings, the River Walk has been navigated by small watercraft. Hugman designed the bridges to allow Venetian-style gondolas to float underneath. When San Antonio celebrated its 250th anniversary during HemisFair ’68, flat-bottomed barges offered visitors rides up and down the length of the river. The same river barge design continues to be used today for tourist cruises, river taxis and dinner barge excursions. As San Antonio prepares to celebrate its 300th anniversary in 2018, City leaders invited designers to re-imagine the river barge experience.


Kelly Kapaun
City of San Antonio  
(210) 207-8031
Email Contact

Torrey Stanley Carleton
AIA San Antonio 
(210) 316-8073
Email Contact

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