César Pelli’s concrete “Sphinx” in San Jose will hit the wrecking ball

Despite the best efforts of the San Jose Historic Landmarks Commission and the city’s Preservation Action Council, César Pellis is an atypical squat building for the Bank of California – a 1973 brutalist design by the Pritzker Prize-winning Argentine architect under the employment of Gruen Associates was created – nonexistent yearn for this world.

As reported by Mercury News, the San Jose City Council has given full permission to the Jay Paul Company developer to demolish the huge concrete building to make way for three interconnected glass office towers that anchor the new Gensler-designed towers CityView Plaza development will be in downtown San Jose. In addition to the uninhabited Pelli building, which was last used as a district court and whose entrance resembles an abstract sphinx, eight other buildings in the immediate vicinity are being demolished. A first account of the building’s plight last month, when conservationists gathered to declare the old bench at 170 Park Avenue a local historic landmark, a designation that would not have made the structure safe from future demolition, but it would have One would have provided an extra layer of protection by putting pressure on local officials to save them.

These plans didn’t work out. With the city council’s just-given approval, the Jay Paul Company plans to begin construction of the multi-phase redevelopment plan later this year after the demolition is complete.

Ben Leech, executive director of the Preservation Action Council, made it clear that he is not necessarily against CityView Plaza, and has argued that the towers can be built without destroying the Pelli building, which may be spiced up and reinvigorated inside the building could be tech-centric redevelopment zone. In total, the building covers just half a hectare of the 8.1 hectare property, which will ultimately include 3.6 million square feet of office space and 24,000 square feet of retail.

“This is not a vote against CityView Plaza. It’s a vote of encouragement to improve the project for the future, “Mercury News quoted Leech as saying during a council meeting earlier this week. “This doesn’t have to be an either-or decision.”

The bank in its current form. (Courtesy of Google Maps)

According to the San Jose Spotlight, the Jay Paul Company had investigated several scenarios where the bank building might have been preserved. However, reportedly none were feasible. Instead, the developer has “offered to create a memorial exhibition for the virtual reality of the old square and to put a plaque in the place where the building is today,” wrote Spotlight.

The city’s historic preservationist Juliet Arroyo had previously described the building as the “best example” of Brutalist architecture in San Jose, stating that it “matters because of its design quality, love of design, materials and method. “

However, the historical significance of the building has been rejected by others. Belonging to this camp is developer and sports franchise owner Lew Wolff, who claimed in a letter to city officials in March that the structure was not even designed by Pelli, but by an intern. Wolff oversaw the development of Park City Plaza, an early 1970s urban renewal program that will be replaced by CityView Plaza. The Pelli Bank of America building was the most architecturally outstanding feature of the Park City Plaza.

As noted in the Spotlight, Wolff explained to city council members that the building “was designed years ago with another architect named Sid Brisker at a dining table in my house. In my opinion it is not an example of any form of architecture, especially (brutalist) or whatever the term they assigned to it after realizing that César wasn’t the only architect. “

San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo joined the city council on the matter and wholeheartedly welcomed what he called an “exceptional investment in our city”.

As he stated before the unanimous vote of the city council: “We have a lot of ambitions for the inner city, especially for corners like this one, and this architecture is in complete contradiction to all our ideas about town planning. Nor does it take advantage of the very tight space we have in our very cramped, cramped city center. “

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