Kamal, Azza; Doganer, Sedef, et al. "Wayfinding and Accessibility in the San Antonio RiverWalk: A Model for Urban Design Education," in ArchNet-IJAR: International Journal of Architectural Research, vol. 4, issues 2/3 (2010).
The San Antonio RiverWalk is an exquisite and dynamic destination for tourists from Texas, as well as from other states in the US. Because of its location in downtown area, the entire area including the RiverWalk, has been incorporated into various guides and maps, all of which seem to be disregarding the interrelationship between the RiverWalk level and the street level. While most maps show either the street level or river level, there are none that illustrate the accessibility the RiverWalk offers to major attractions and buildings at both levels, and none offer an orientation for pedestrians to the destinations on the RiverWalk level, which encountered the lack of visual clarity due to the multilayered terrain. This study investigates the visual obstacles of wayfinding in, and accessibility to the East RiverWalk area. This study, which represents the first phase of a multi-phase analysis of a broader research, emerged from urban research undertake by a group of architecture educators and students which sought to allow students to become more involved in empirical and action research. A number of tools to investigate pedestrians’ ease of wayfinding and efficiency of identifying accessible transition points in the East RiverWalk area were developed. These tools categorize a number of spatial urban and accessibility features (i.e., entryways, ramps, staircases, and circulation elements) which were used to create 3-D virtual environments demonstrated on two focus groups. The study concluded with a number of recommendations for improving the existing visual and graphic tools, enhancing planning and design considerations, and incorporating the voice of community businesses in addressing wayfinding and accessibility concerns. This study and its outcomes not only engage architecture students in urban research, but also emphasize the significance of the RiverWalk in creating a more livable downtown San Antonio.