2013-16 • Pearsall Park, San Antonio, TX

Public Art Commission

The term ‘wickiup’ refers to a primitive domed structure historically associated with Native Americans of the Southwest. Locally, the wickiup has been associated with tribes that have long vanished from San Antonio. The Kickapoo Tribe though, with a Tribal Reservation in South Texas, continues to build wickiups today.

The introduction of Wickiup Overlook and Wickiup Encampment as shade structures, honors the historical presence of indigenous peoples and their light footprint on the land. In addition, the structures add a contemporary overlay to the history on this site as a contemporary midden. Each of these shade structures is sited for visibility and views with contextual seating amenities.

As both forms and forums, Wickiup Overlook and Wickiup Encampment provide visitors to Pearsall Park multiple offerings: place-based references, historical and contemporary overlays, passive viewing experiences, resting spots, trail heads, play environments, classrooms and gathering places.

Both Wickiup Overlook and Wickiup Encampment are visible from Pearsall Road and from the prime play area in Pearsall Park and are allurements for the adventurous to explore the distant amenities. Arrival is rewarded with a place for respite and views looking out over Lackland Air Force Base, meandering Leon Creek, pastoral and native landscapes, suburban villages and in the distance, downtown San Antonio. In the evening the wickiups are illuminated employing light emitting diodes (LED) powered by photo voltaic cells.


At Wickiup Overlook, instead of the traditional bent saplings that were once used to support blankets for shade, pipe is used; sharing a common radius with history as if in the same molecular orbit. The ‘blanket’ cover in this case, is a hexagonal shade canopy that references contemporary materials (hex cells and carbon composites) often used in aircraft manufacturing and found in the aircraft that fly overhead.

This optical hexagonal mesh allows only pinholes of sunlight to pass through, providing almost complete shading. The visitor, when looking up through the doming mesh, experiences the sense of having a “fly’s eye view”. By day, the stainless mesh

and hex cell discs provide a sun reflecting presence. If the budget allows, night illumination may be provided by solar power to create a lantern-light effect.

Prism Bench located within the structure references the geometry of the canopy and provides seating for viewing and conversation. It is comprised of three interlocking prism-shaped pieces of polished Texas Red Granite, each ten feet by sixteen inches by sixteen inches in size. The tight grained, polished surface of the stone will enable easy removal of graffiti and the bench will be pinned or epoxied to the existing twenty-foot pad.

Sitting atop “Midden Mound”, the interlocked granite of Prism Bench forms a triangle shape, referencing the internationally recognized recycling symbol. A landfill monitoring well visible in the foreground serves to subtly mark the mound as a contemporary ‘midden’ pile (original inhabitants of wickiups had midden mounds as well, though theirs were entirely biodegradable).

Triangular photovoltaic solar panels and LED light assembly will be attached to the exterior mesh and pipe structure on the south-facing surface of the Wickiup. The array of solar panels will create a geometric arch across the structure at the optimal angle. The geometry will compliment the technological blanket designs and be readily seen from Pearsall Road as well at producing a glowing blue structure. The solar cells will be aligned with one support pipe, which will double as conduit for the 12-volt system leading to an easily accessible buried and locked vault for the battery.


Wickiup Encampment brings an indigenous aesthetic to the ‘shade blanket’ element of this dual-canopied seating area. Traditional blanket patterns and colors are abstracted and overlaid onto the wickiup canopy structures in a manner that directly references the wickiup source.

At Wickiup Encampment, on the saddle between two Midden Mounds, the two-wickiup structures provide collective shade for a Serpentine Bench that appears to be passing through. This versatile seating and play object is twenty four feet long, sixteen inches high and sixteen inches wide, and is comprised of twenty two or twenty prism shapes made from local Texas Limestone.

The form of Serpentine Bench references the geometry of Prism Bench and also allegorically refers to the style of native figurative depictions of snakes, which are also geometrical in form. To create a contrasting coloration and accentuate the geometry of the stone units, natural cream colored limestone and limestone dyed with a natural pigment will be laid in an alternating arrangement. The bench will rest on a footing and be pinned with stainless steel epoxied imbeds.

Photovoltaic panels integrate into the native rug patterns will provide power to

illuminate two light sources recessed at grade in the center of each of the Wickiups. The lights, projecting up internally illuminate the structure and cast a yellowish red glow suggesting a welcoming campfire seen from the family fun zone and Pearsall Road.

The solar cells will be aligned along one support pipe, which will double as conduit for the 12-volt system leading to an easily accessible buried and locked vault for the battery.

© 2013-16 Buster Simpson

Site Design by Todd Metten

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VIEW the Proposal PDFhttp://www.bustersimpson.net/pearsallpark/pearsallpark-bustersimpson2014.pdf