Fernando Jerez and Belén Pérez de Juan of SMAR Architecture Studio, a practice with offices in Australia, Spain, and Lithuania, have won the Urban Confluence Silicon Valley international design competition seeking an iconic new landmark for the Arena Green section of Guadalupe River Parks & Gardens in downtown San Jose, California.
The duo’s proposal, Breeze of Innovation, was selected by competition jurors over two other shortlisted designs, Welcome to Wonderland by Rish Saito, a student at the Southern California Institute of Architecture, and Nebula Tower by Co-Milieu, a design team led by Qinrong Lui and Ruize Li.
Over 963 proposals from artists, architects, landscape architecture, urban planners, students, and designers of all stripes in 72 countries were entered into the competition, which is a project of the San Jose Light Tower Corporation. The competition was launched not in search of a contemporary facsimile of the original 237-foot-tall San Jose Electric Light Tower (1881–1915) but, rather, to ultimately “build an artistically inspired iconic landmark that will become the architectural legacy of our current generation of leaders,” according to the nonprofit Urban Confluence Silicon Valley’s mission statement. “This bold destination landmark will provide a major enhancement to downtown San Jose and be an important catalyst for Silicon Valley culture and long-term regional economic development.”
Breeze of Innovation, chosen by a 14-member jury panel that included Walter Hood (Hood Design Studio), Daan Roosegaarde (Studio Roosegaarde), Lisa Iwamoto (IwamotoScott), and Jerry Van Eyck (!melk) among others, will now go before San Jose City Council in May for approval. Before that, the project will also be the subject of two online community meetings scheduled to be held on April 1 and April 5. As noted by the Mercury News, if the proposal is bestowed with a full blessing by the city council, which it likely will, an environmental impact report would come next and preparing that could take over a year. Urban Confluence ultimately hopes that the tower will be completed by 2025. In earlier iterations, the project has received enthusiastic support from council members.
As envisioned by Jerez and Pérez de Juan, Breeze of Innovation will take form as a 200-foot-tall tower composed of 500 gently swaying stainless steel rods that, per a press announcement, create a “dramatic visual effect while generating enough power to light the structure, giving it a strong presence both day and night.” A conical void within the dense forest of kinetic rods pays homage to the old San Jose Power Light Tower (which was felled during a windstorm) and features multiple levels of walkways along with a viewing platform offering panoramic views from the top of the structure. In addition to the unique vertical space, the proposal also calls for an exhibition venue, café, and “other features meant to inspire interaction and activation of the site and surroundings.”
“xSilicon Valley is not about replicating the past; it’s about shaping the future. Our goal from the beginning was to capture the ever-changing magic of Silicon Valley while also creating a deep connection with the San José community,“” said Jerez in a statement. “This is why we came up with the idea of designing a dynamic landmark, one that is alive, moving with the wind and light, a magical space that includes a tribute to the San José Electric Light Tower of 1881. We want visitors to enjoy a unique experience on their ascent, connecting with the memory of the Valley while dreaming about its future possibilities.”
The project has already raised $2.5 million as fundraising efforts continue on.