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Art News:

Project celebrates local public service men and women, “Protectors of the Grid”

SAN ANTONIO, TX—JEFRË (Jefre Figueras Manuel), an internationally recognized public artist and landscape architect, has completed Unity Plaza, the largest public art project in San Antonio. The principle vision behind Unity Plaza was to represent the historic uniting of two oldest public safety departments in Texas, San Antonio Police Department and San Antonio Fire Department, under one central headquarters facility.
In keeping with San Antonio’s reputation as a model city for America, the artist’s concept was to create an inspired place-making project where art and urban design transform the entrance to the City’s Public Safety Headquarters into a place that stands for honor, respect and enduring appreciation of the community and the public service men and women who “protect the grid” every day.
“With this bold public art project, we are honoring our brave emergency responders with a visible landmark that is both inspiring and accessible to the public.”--said Mayor Julián Castro.
The first of three main plaza components is an 18,000 square foot mosaic map of San Antonio, created using GPS coordinates to build a scale map using natural stones that cover the plaza’s walkways, seating walls and planting beds. The map delineates the city down to the San Antonio River, as well as major roadways and interstates. After dark, built-in lighting strips illuminate the network of interstate highways and light the plaza map, creating remarkable views from above.
“After visiting numerous police and fire stations it was quite evident that the map of city was a common image seen on the walls and computer screens,” said the artist. “it was immediately clear that they were the protectors of the grid that became the genesis of the entire design.”
The second element in the plaza, the beacon tower, reaches almost 60 feet at its highest point. The all-white tower consists of eleven steel beams that extend upward from the ground map and become united at their apex as a metaphorical beacon of light into the sky. The only permanent light sculpture in the U.S., the beam of light will extend two miles high. The tower’s spotlights can be programmed from all white to red or blue, which depending on the program, may be used to honor San Antonio’s police officers and firefighters during special observances. This new landmark is intended to serve as an important gateway for downtown’s southwest extension and delineates the axis point of the Public Safety Headquarters and new Federal Courthouse site.
The third component, two 16’ tall sculptures that depict a police officer and a firefighter using cast shadows and sunlight, are located at the northern landscaped edge of the plaza near Nueva.
Educated in the Arts and Landscape Architecture, JEFRË has always been interested in creating spatial experiences. “Public artists for years have been perceived as decorators or subjected to “plopping art” on whatever empty lot was available. I wanted to take this opportunity to create a placemaking project that spoke about the importance of public safety and the incredible courage of the public service workers.” – said the artist. “I wanted to created both a new landmark for San Antonio and an urban public space.
About JEFRË:
Mr. Manuel, known simply as JEFRË, studied at the Art Institute of Chicago prior to receiving a Bachelors Degree in Landscape Architecture from The Ohio State University. In 2010 JEFRË was accepted to the prestigious Architecture Association in London where he studied Morpho Ecology before starting his couture landscape studio at The City Arts Factory in Orlando. He is recognized for creating spaces that are original, forward thinking and unexpected. In his first three years as a Public Artist, JEFRE has won over a dozen international design competitions, completing close to over 3 million in public art works in cities such as Philadelphia, New Orleans, Washington DC, San Antonio, Manila, Orlando, West Palm Beach and Miami. JEFRË is expanding his focus to couture landscape architecture and working with noted architects such as Calatrava, Polsheck Partnership, SOM and Chad Oppenheim.
A Model City for all America: San Antonio
San Antonio is a model city for the new face of America—a diverse, progressive and globally competitive city with a solid vision for national and international economic development. In 2012, the National Civic League named San Antonio an All-America City. The City of San Antonio maintains a strong financial position with a “AAA” general obligation bond rating from all three major rating agencies. The Milken Institute has ranked San Antonio No. 1 on its Best-Performing Cities list. As the seventh-largest city in the United States, San Antonio is experiencing solid economic growth in 21st century industries such as bioscience and healthcare. Biotech companies and healthcare systems in San Antonio contribute billions to the local economy. The Aerospace industry remains a dominant economic strength in San Antonio with the presence of several aviation and aerospace corporations, including the military. The military has had a significant relationship with San Antonio for more than 200 years and is home to several military commands. The city is also a cybersecurity hub; nationally recognized as a leader in the field of information security. San Antonio is positioning itself to be at the forefront of the New Energy Economy in the United States, committed to investing and creating employment opportunities in green industries. The travel industry also remains a consistent growing economy for the city, as millions of people visit San Antonio on a yearly basis. For more information, visit www.sanantonio.gov
Dalia Stoniene
Susan Grant Lewin Associates
*High resolution photography available upon request.



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