April 1, 2021
The new San Jose landmark is the brainchild of architects around the world – but local executives say San Jose artists and designers will continue to be part of it.
The newly selected landmark, The Breeze of Innovation, was designed by Fernando Jerez, Director of SMAR Architecture Studio with offices in Australia and Spain. In an international design competition, almost 1,000 entries were recently surpassed.
Nonprofit Urban Confluence Silicon Valley raised $ 2.2 million to fund the project as a gift to San Jose. While the design came from overseas, some of the money will be put in the hands of local builders – and perhaps artists – as the 14.5-acre space is developed. Officials said contractors will be selected on the basis of merit, but “almost certainly” will be from the Bay Area or San Jose.
Steve Borkenhagen, the organization’s executive director, said the goal is to upgrade the park around the landmark and make the area a world-class, attractive travel destination.
“We’re going to look at all kinds of objects that get into the park: toilets, benches, lighting – there could be an art garden,” said Borkenhagen. “We’ll certainly talk to locals and if we had some kind of sculpture garden, for example. We’d probably have someone on site to curate that.”
The total budget for the project is over $ 100 million. The money will come from future fundraisers, he said.
The landmark of Breeze of Innovation will be built in Arena Green in downtown San Jose in about four years. The landmark is a light tower with 500 hundred flexible poles that stand 200 feet high. According to the proposal, the poles will represent the “hundreds of different companies and individuals working together in Silicon Valley.”
When the poles sway in the wind, they generate electricity so they can glow at night. Multiple levels of walkway form the vertical space within the structure and provide a 360 degree view above. According to official information, there could also be a showroom and a café.
The Breeze of Innovation, the future landmark of San Jose, will consist of hundreds of rods that generate electricity and light up at night. Photo courtesy Urban Confluence of Silicon Valley.
Former chairman of the San Jose Arts Commission, Peter Allen, said local artists should have their say on projects designed to revitalize the city – even if they are privately funded.
“I will always stand up for local artists and local investments,” said Allen. “Especially when pieces will be so iconic and visible and will be such an important part of our city’s future branding.”
Borkenhagen said the locals were involved in the selection process. About half of the 14-person jury that selected the winning design are from San Jose. The jury also consisted of a local artist, Erin Salazar. The Breeze of Innovation was selected from a global pool of 963 submissions. No names or location information were attached to the submissions.
Based on IP address data, Borkenhagen said 65 filings were from anywhere in Santa Clara County – including San Jose – and 44 from San Jose.
“The logic was that we wanted the entries with the greatest merit to win, and it was not a criterion that they come from a specific location,” said Borkenhagen. “The jury made its decision without knowing who the entrants were, where they came from, how old they were or what experience they had.”
Borkenhagen emphasized that the city would not pay a cent for the project. Urban Confluence also pays off for future upkeep.
“This is private money from people like you and me who believe in creating squares and building beautiful parks,” said Borkenhagen. “So it’s a gift. The area will remain a park and we are working diligently to respect the environment, fish, birds and trees. We have no interest in doing anything that does not respect the natural world.”
As plans to build the landmark begin, San Jose City Hall prepares for potential legal or environmental challenges.
“It’s a big project, so we can assume there will be some hurdles along the way and we’ll address them as they arise,” said Charlotte Graham, spokeswoman for the city’s Department of Parks, Recreation and Neighborhood Services.
She said city officials would discuss the environmental review and make sure the project complies with city guidelines.
The project will be presented to the Park and Recreation Commission on April 8th. It is due to appear before the city council on May 4th.
Contact Carly Wipf at [email protected] or follow @CarlyChristineW on Twitter.
San José Spotlight is the city’s first nonprofit news organization dedicated to independent political and business reporting. Please support our public service journalism by clicking here.