Midden Mound Wickiups

Posted by Buster Simpson, Aug 18, 2017 0 comments

This post is part of our Public Art Network 2017 Year in Review blog salon.

Two sets of wickiups perched at the top of a manmade mound of a repurposed landfill site—now Pearsall Park—invite you to take in an interesting 360-degree view of San Antonio. The wickiup structures suggest an overlay to the history of this site: a large decommissioned city landfill repurposed into a contemporary City Park. The wickiups represent the modest shade structures often used by the indigenous peoples of the area. The landfill is our cultural midden; the artwork appropriates the site as a social and ecological comment on consumption.

The term wickiup refers to a simple domed structure associated with Native Americans of the Southwest. Locally, the wickiup has provided shelter with tribes that have long vanished from San Antonio. The Kickapoo, a relatively recent refugee to Texas, encamps on a reservation south along the Rio Grande River and continues to construct the wickiup for ceremonial purposes.


The term wickiup refers to a simple domed structure associated with Native Americans of the Southwest. Locally, the wickiup has provided shelter with tribes that have long vanished from San Antonio. The Kickapoo, a relatively recent refugee to Texas, encamps on a reservation south along the Rio Grande River and continues to construct the wickiup for ceremonial purposes.


At Pearsall Park, both Wickiup Overlook and Wickiup Encampment have substituted the typical wickiup construction of bent or gathered branches with bent steel pipe. The blankets, which traditionally cover wickiups to protect against the elements, have been replaced with colorful woven wire mesh and geometric Hexcel material. Solar panels supply power to nighttime lighting.

The wickiups provide shaded gathering places, seating, and viewing experiences looking out over Lackland Air Force Base and the natural landscape along the meandering Leon Creek. Downtown San Antonio is seen in the distance.

Wickiup Overlook responds to the technology of the large cargo planes using blankets made from a hexagonal structural material often used in aircraft skin construction. During the day, this material glows with the reflecting sun, while at night solar lighting transforms the materials into illuminated lanterns creating shadow play on the surfaces below. The Trilateral Bench is composed of three interlocking ten-foot prism-shaped pieces of polished Texas red granite, forming triangular interconnected seating.

Wickiup Encampment, located on the saddle between two midden mounds, features blankets that present an indigenous approach through colored patterns using woven and twisted wire mesh. The Serpentine Bench, made from Texas limestone, provides seating and a recreational play object. The bench allegorically references Manetoa, the great water serpent of the Kickapoo. The internal illumination of the wickiup structure at night suggests the light emitted from an intimate campfire. 

Please login to post comments.