MCM ARCHITECTURE AT THE 1968 WORLD'S FAIR - HEMISFAIR 68'
In the 1960's the idea & interest of hosting a international gathering known as a "World's Fair" or "World Expo" became very popular in the United States. In 1963, civic & business leaders in the city of San Antonio, TX. began looking at the idea of hosting the official World's Fair for the year 1968 to celebrate the city's 250th birthday.
The end result was the San Antonio World's Fair better known as "HemisFair 68'", located on a 92 acre site in the heart of downtown San Antonio which ran from April 6 thru October 6, 1968. As with all World's Fairs, most of the national and corporate pavilions were designed in the theme of the Fair and popular architectural styles of the time. For the San Antonio World's Fair, the overall design was in the Mid-Century-Modern style of clean simple lines and form following function. During the design phase in the mid-1960's, several architectural firms, as well as some individual architects from the South Texas region were commissioned to design the majority of the projects for the Fair.
Several of the MCM style construction projects for HemisFair 68' included:
Theme structure - The Tower of the Americas
Three building Convention Center Complex (Theater, Arena & Convention Center)
1/4 mile extension of the San Antonio River in to the new Convention Center Complex
Hilton - Palacio Del Rio Hotel
Most of the U.S. corporate pavilions (see below for remaining examples)
San Antonio Chamber of Commerce offices (entrance to the 1/4 river extension)
Two new road bridges over the San Antonio River (included in the overall 143 acre urban renewal site for the Fair)
In 2018 in honor of the 50th anniversary of HemisFair 68', MidTexMod chose the site and its design for Tour Day.
Photos courtesy of Christopher Medina - www.worldsfair68.info
Below are some images & descriptions of the MCM style buildings built for the World's Fair and can still be found on the site today
U.S. Pavilion - Confluence Theater
Designed by the firms of Marmon Mok & Associates (San Antonio, TX) and Donald Desky Associates (New York, NY), this building was one of two which along with a courtyard took 4.5 acres. During the Fair, the theater featured a 1,200 seats, an early IMAX style 70mm projection system & a panoramic screen.
After the Fair closed, the theater was renovated and served as the local U.S. Federal Courthouse until early 2002.
Designed by the firm of Caudill, Rowlett & Scott (Houston, TX), this building is known as an "Earth Berm" style architecture. Funded by the State of Texas, it served as the State of Texas Pavilion during the six month run of HemisFair 68'. After the Fair closed it became part of the University of Texas system, in 1973 it was transferred locally to UT San Antonio as the original downtown campus.
After the Fair's closing in 1968 the pavilion reopened as the Institute of Texan Cultures and is still open to the general public.
Eastman Kodak Pavilion
Designed by architect Wallace B. Thomas (San Antonio, TX.), this building was built for Eastman Kodak as their pavilion for the Fair.
After the Fair closed, it eventually became part of the expanded UT San Antonio property and has seen little use since 1968.
Designed by architect Cyrus H. Wagner (San Antonio, TX.), this building was built to house the Women's Pavilion during the Fair.
Unlike the majority of structures built for a World's Fair which are typically demolished afterwards, this one was built as a permanent structure with the intent of serving as a Student Union building for UT San Antonio after the Fair closed.
Designed by the firm of Ford, Powell & Carson (San Antonio, TX.), this building was built for Radio Corporation of America (RCA) as their pavilion for the Fair.
Sometime after the Fair closed the building was repurposed and currently serves as the headquarters for the San Antonio Park Police.
U.S. Pavilion - Exhibit Hall
Designed by the firm of Roberts, Allen & Helmke (San Antonio), this building was one of two which along with a courtyard took 4.5 acres. During the Fair, the building featured a 8,000 sqft. exhibit of U.S. history.
After the Fair closed the exhibit hall was renovated and re-opened as support facilities for the U.S. Theater which also was repurposed as the local U.S. Federal Courthouse until early 2022.
Tower of the Americas
Designed by the firm of Ford, Powell & Carson (San Antonio, TX.), this building was the theme structure for the World's Fair. At 750 feet in height, it was built as and still is today the tallest building in San Antonio. The tower was built in a MCM style of architecture known as Brutalism (the use of exposed concrete in artistic form). In 2003 the tower received a $8 million dollar renovation which includes: a gift shop & 4D theater at the base - new interiors & banquet spaces up in the top house.
Convention Center Theater
Designed by the firm of Phelps & Simmons (San Antonio, TX. ), this building was one of three which made up a new $10 million dollar convention center complex (Theater, Arena & Convention building) included in the development of the 1968 World's Fair. By the mid-1960's the city was in need of a new purpose built performing arts venue to replace the partly converted movie palaces built in the late 1920's.
The theater was eventually renamed the Lila Cockrell Theater in honor of Mrs. Cockrell who was elected as the first woman mayor of San Antonio in the 1970's.
In the early 2000's the theater received a $26 million dollar renovation to meet the needs of conventions & events in the 21st century.
Hilton - Palacio Del Rio
Designed by architects Cerna & Garza (San Antonio, TX.), this hotel was built to accommodate visitors to the San Antonio World's Fair. It is unique in its design for using modular construction rather than the conventional floor by floor methods. The building features 500 individual room modules which were built off site, each module room was completely finished out before being transported to the site for installation. The project made it into the Gennius Book of World Records for 1968 as the fastest built modular construction project - 202 days from start to finish.