The Texas Society of Architects presented its 2021 Cornerstone Award to Graciela Sanchez of San Antonio on October 8 at its 82nd Annual Conference and Design Expo. Sanchez is the founder and director of the Esperanza Peace and Justice Center and was recognized for her and her organization’s work to preserve significant landmarks for San Antonio’s Westside Hispanic community.
The Esperanza Center was founded in 1987 to promote social, environmental, gender, and economic justice. As part of its work, it has partnered with preservation groups to save numerous historic buildings on San Antonio’s west side, adapting them for modern use while keeping their cultural significance alive.
Among these is a cluster of historic structures purchased by Esperanza to serve as the hub of its cultural programming. Known as the Rinconcito de Esperanza, or “Little Corner of Hope,” it includes a multidisciplinary center that has won awards in both preservation and green building, as well as the new home of the group’s women’s clay cooperative, which was the first commercial building permitted for adobe construction in the city in over 100 years.
Sanchez and her organization are currently working toward renovation of a nationally registered landmark known as Lerma’s Nite Club, a long-running conjunto music dance hall, and on converting a once-popular neighborhood gathering space known as Ruben’s Icehouse into the Museo del Westside, which will showcase the group’s collection of photographic and oral histories.