- Associated Press - Tuesday, June 3, 2014

SAN ANTONIO (AP) - Professor Kevin McClellan tells his students that architecture is art and that their creations should stand out among the nondescript office buildings that line city streets.

Proof that they learned their lessons now stands in Travis Park.

The San Antonio Express-News (http://bit.ly/1kmQR0F ) reports it’s an architectural installation called “F2” (pronounced “F squared”), a swooping 15-foot-tall and 40-foot-wide dome made of interlaced wood topped with white spikes.

“F2” is the first public art piece to go on display at the recently revitalized Travis Park in the “Art in the Park” program launched by the city’s Center City Development Office. A grand unveiling ceremony with a disc jockey, cash bar and food trucks will take place Thursday.

“The structure is called ‘F2’ because we studied form-finding this semester,” said McClellan, who teaches a graduate design seminar at the University of Texas at San Antonio College of Architecture along with Andrew Kudless, a visiting instructor from San Francisco. “Our goal was to develop this program as a teaching tool of different forms that can be merged into one.”

Planning for the project began in early April, when the students in the class drew up a rough sketch for the grid shell structure, a sort of free-form dome. A prototype was exhibited at the McNay Art Museum later in the month.

The class spent a month preparing for what grad student Alex Mikhailov called “the daily grind of installation.”

The students first had to assemble the wood into a grid flat on the ground, kind of like weaving a reed mat. Then came the hard part. The entire class put poles under the wooden grid and pushed the piece into shape. They then secured the corners to steel beams to keep it in place.

“It was almost like a piece of paper when you push the sides together to create an arch in the middle,” McClellan said.

“F2,” which looks something like the fossil remains of a menacing prehistoric creature, was stubborn. The group couldn’t pop it into place on one try and worked on and off for a week in spite of thunderstorms that drenched the Memorial Day weekend.

Although the weather wasn’t favorable, the rain helped the students bend the wood into shape, said Barry Reyna, who just finished his first year of grad school.

“We wanted the wood to deform as much as it could,” Reyna said, but the added weight of the water “also made the structure harder to lift.”

When Travis Park reopened in late March after its three-month face-lift, it was an opportunity for the city to rebrand the downtown park and make it a more popular destination, said Colleen Swain, assistant director of the Center City Development Office.

“This art piece is another opportunity to reintroduce people to Travis Park and make them part of the change going on,” Swain said.

“It’s another reason to come to the park and another reason to be excited about the park. While it’s art, there’s also a lot of math and engineering that went into the piece. … (It) will spark conversation, catch people’s attention and give learning opportunities.”

San Antonio resident Amber Lynn Bradley walks through Travis Park every day on her way to work at Macro Management Services on Navarro Street. On a recent afternoon, she stopped by the “F2” site to ask McClellan what it was all about.

“I didn’t even know wood could do that,” Bradley said. “The way it’s bent … it’s incredible.”

Bradley said she would like to see more eye-catching installations like “F2” around the city because they bring new flavor to downtown.

“The park before was rundown and looked kind of bad,” she said. “It brought something different and new to a place not many people go to regularly.”

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Information from: San Antonio Express-News, http://www.mysanantonio.com

Copyright © 2016 The Washington Times, LLC.

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