Where in Texas is a tree not wooden?
One answer is “San Antonio.” Any number of “trees” there are not wood at all. They’re concrete. Mexican artist Dionicio Rodríguez created whimsical concrete sculptures in Brackenridge Park, as well as at other locations in the city and in other Texas towns (and in other states), between the late 1920s and the mid-1940s. Rodríguez colored and textured concrete to resemble wood, painstakingly sculpting such tiny details as insect holes, peeling bark, and lichen. “Cut” surfaces exhibit what you would swear were axe marks. The faux bois (false wood) structures look so realistic that many people have to touch them to be convinced that they are not made from trees. They give new meaning to the term “hardwood.”
Rodríguez’s massive torii-style entrance gate at Brackenridge Park’s Japanese Tea Garden appears fashioned from large tree trunks, their limbs supporting a “thatched” roof with upturned corners. The entire structure is concrete, down to the pyramid-headed “bolts” carved at critical junctions and the “shims” that the artist playfully added as if the concrete “log” lintels required steadying.
(Because city officials changed the garden’s name in 1941 after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, the 1942-vintage gate bears its second name, “Chinese Tea Garden.” The city restored the original name in 1983. Created from an abandoned quarry, the garden is sometimes called simply the Sunken Garden.)
In the northeast corner of Brackenridge Park, overlooked by many visitors, is Rodríguez’s fairytale footbridge, which spans the remains of an 18th-Century Spanish acequia built to transport irrigation water from the San Antonio River to mission farmlands. The 100-foot-long concrete arbor bridge appears to be made from interlaced tree branches.
From the January 2006 issue.