San Jose landmark challenge up on these 3 ways

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The search for a new landmark in downtown San Jose reached a major milestone on Friday night when three designs were announced as finalists during a virtual event that included some surprises of its own.

But perhaps the biggest surprise is how much each of the finalists captures the innovative, resourceful and fun spirit of this place where we live.

“Welcome to Wonderland”, created by Rish Saito and honoring “Alice in Wonderland”, was announced on Friday September 18, 2020 as one of the finalists in Urban Confluence Silicon Valley’s search for a new landmark for San Jose. (Courtesy Urban Confluence Silicon Valley)

“They’re really different in their vision, their inspiration,” said Jon Ball, a retired construction company executive at Hensel Phelps, chairman of the Urban Confluence Silicon Valley board and a member of the 14-person judging panel. “All three have a certain elegance and poetry.”

Here are the last three, selected from 963 submissions by a jury of artists, architects, heads of state and environmentalists. (Watch videos of each finalist below and visit for more information).

• “Nebula Tower,” designed by Quinrong Liu and Ruize Li, a 180-foot tall framed cube that contains a negative space that represents the San Jose Light Tower, an icon that has been the city’s phantom icon for more than a century. The tower can be illuminated in different patterns at night.

• “Breeze of Innovation” by Fer Jerez and Belen Perez de Juan from SMAR Architecture Studio uses 500 sleek, white rods that gently move in the wind and represent the innovative companies of Silicon Valley. It also includes a reference to the light tower – a conical cavity within the rods of the same dimensions as the original structure.

A rendering of “Nebula Tower,” designed by Quinrong Liu and Ruize Li, a 180-foot tall frame cube announced on September 18, 2020 and one of the finalists in Urban Confluence Silicon Valley’s search for a new San Jose landmark . (Courtesy Urban Confluence Silicon Valley)

• “Welcome to Wonderland” by Rish Saito is something completely different. A reef over “Alice in Wonderland” with a band of artificial flora made of white plaster “growing” out of a 700-foot container. At night, projection mapping transforms the structure into a vivid, colorful display that people can walk through. The point, Saito says, is to honor the imagination that drives Silicon Valley.

Urban Confluence Silicon Valley was born out of a desire to recreate the iconography of the San Jose Light Tower, a 207-foot-tall structure made of iron tubing and tires that was erected on Santa Clara Street in 1881 and which stood until 1915 as a debilitating tower burst open after a storm yourself together. However, since the global ideas competition had little appetite for a replica – there is already a half-size version in History Park on Senter Road – it was opened to any design that would reflect the spirit of San Jose and Silicon Valley.

“Although we were originally inspired by the light tower, we did not mandate it in any way,” said Ball. “As it turned out, the non-local judges were the ones who were very intrigued by the idea of ​​paying homage to the old tower. For me it was a big surprise. “

The jury, which included people as far as the east coast and Europe, met for practically two days at the beginning of August. A rigorous discussion ensued when the entries were narrowed down to about a dozen and the judges began to battle for their favorites. Interestingly, none of the finalists were among the 47 entries recommended by a larger Community Competition Panel that met in July.

“Breeze of Innovation” by Fer Jerez and Belen Perez de Juan of SMAR Architecture Studio was announced on Friday, September 18, 2020, as one of the finalists in Urban Confluence Silicon Valley’s search for a new landmark in San Jose. (Courtesy Urban Confluence Silicon Valley)

The online unveiling party on Friday evening was not only intended to reveal the finalists, but also to get the community – and potential donors – excited about the project. While the cost of the final selection won’t be known for months, Urban Confluence Silicon Valley knows that a fundraiser is imminent.

During the online event, Valley Foundation’s Phil Boyce pledged a $ 100,000 grant for the project, and Adobe Systems – the largest tech company headquartered in downtown San Jose – sponsored the virtual event presentation and has 150,000 USD pledged. Steve Borkenhagen, executive director of Urban Confluence Silicon Valley, said the group has received significant support from the San Jose city council as well as other community groups.

“Our relationship with the city couldn’t be better,” said Borkenhagen. “Part of the reason we got to this point is because our board members – Jon Ball, Christine Davis, and I – have been in constant communication with our stakeholders, including the Sharks, Little Italy, Guadalupe River Park Conservancy, Sierra Club, and the department of the city park. Outreach was the key to our success. “

Each designer receives a grant of $ 150,000 to develop the concepts into workable plans over the next few months. The final selection will be made by the same jury in the first part of 2021. The city has already approved the placement of the project in the Arena Green section of Guadalupe River Park – a section divided by the confluence of the Guadalupe River and Los Gatos Creek.

The first groundbreaking is expected in 2022. When the pioneering structure, which Borkenhagen says will be fully privately financed, will be given as a gift to the city of San Jose. “The park will continue to be open to the public,” he said. “We’re not taking anything away from it.”

No matter what design is ultimately built, Ball says San Jose can take pride in the global nature of the submissions. “The fact that we are in San Jose, the urban core of Silicon Valley,” he said, “and that we have something unique with our history here in the world was something very attractive and romantic for the judges.”

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