A little more than a decade ago, Linda Pace—heiress to the San Antonio Pace salsa fortune and longtime patron of the arts—had a vivid dream in which a structure in various shades of shimmering red appeared. Upon waking, she sketched the vision in colored pencil, convinced that she had dreamed about the building that would one day hold her art collection. Before Pace passed away in 2007, she gave her drawing to the then-emerging architect David Adjaye and asked him to interpret the image in architecture.
“Linda had a clear vision for her institution and how it would resonate within the context of San Antonio,” Adjaye says of the two-story contemporary arts center, which will house more than 900 works that are part of the Linda Pace Foundation collection. “The design sets out to capture the essence of Linda’s vision, creating a temple-like space for art that will inspire artists and the larger community.”
Slated to open Sunday, October 13 with a public grand opening, the arts center, called Ruby City, lives up to its name: its sharply angled geometric form evokes a faceted jewel, and its precast concrete exterior skin, fabricated in Mexico City, has a distinctive orange-red hue. A polished lower story holds lobby and office spaces; above it, the surface transforms into a rough façade embedded with multiple hues of red glass chips that capture every ray of the South Texas sun.
“The exterior color was conceived from the ambition of having a form that would rise from the earth and possess an ethereal magic,” Adjaye explains. “It’s a meditation on the pre-Columbian concept of earthbound architecture. We developed a concrete skin that would catch light and sparkle as the sun pans [across] the sky and as one walks around the building.”
Inside, 10,000 square feet of exhibition space will showcase sculpture, photography, painting, and video from artists including Diana Thater, Ross Bleckner, Isaac Julien, and Pace herself. Adjaye designed the interiors as an easily navigable circuit: from the ground level, visitors travel up a set of stairs (or an elevator) and through the galleries, and then back down to the lobby and entry plaza area. “The ambulatory loop is about the idea of the promenades and colonnades in monasteries,” Adjaye says. “There is an obsession in this project to make this circuit that ends back where you started. You could almost do the building continuously in an endless loop.”
The motif continues outside, where a sculpture garden, holding work by Nancy Rubins and Marina Abramović, among others, invites viewers to stroll its oval pathway. “Ruby City is a deep dive into the motifs of the context,” Adjaye says. “It references the mundane ordinary architecture of the city and the historic architecture, as well as the ruins of the region—which are very much deeply embedded in my psyche.”