The greatest cities across the globe all boast landmarks instantly recognizable to folks everywhere. In Paris, it’s the Eiffel Tower, in London, Big Ben. Chicago’s got Cloudgate, better known as “The Bean.” In St. Louis it’s the Gateway Arch, while Seattle showcases the Space Needle. As the mecca of technology innovation and development, Silicon Valley and its capital, San Jose, the 10th largest city in the U.S., should by all rights possess an iconic architectural landmark as well.
But until the last couple years, that notion hadn’t been given a lot of thought.
Cognizant of the role landmarks plan in increasing real estate property values and growing tax revenues in cities, San Jose Light Tower Corporation earlier this year convened a global competition called Urban Confluence Silicon Valley, so named for the confluence of urban rivers at the nexus of the landmark’s future setting.
The competition was intended to spur urban planners, architects, place makers and other entrants from across the globe to vie in creating a landmark using a variety of architectural, technological and design elements. That landmark would find a future home in downtown San Jose’s Arena Green, a gathering spot in Guadalupe River Park & Gardens replete with walkways, green space and playground.
What was the hoped-for result of Silicon Valley having its own landmark to reflect the singular role in national and worldwide technology innovation and development?
“We want to create a true landmark, an iconic destination that fills residents with pride, while also leading to significant economic development in the area around Arena Green, by creating a compelling experience for the community, as well as for tourists,” says Steve Borkenhagen, executive director of Urban Confluence Silicon Valley. “An internationally respected and enduring icon will showcase San Jose and Silicon Valley as a place of hope, healing and human connection. Inspiring future generations, the landmark will make a compelling statement to the world about the enduring values of our region.”
In a competition Bustler termed one of the top 10 architectural competitions in the world, UCSV received almost 1,000 submissions from architects, urban planners, place makers and more. In July, the Community Competition Panel met and recommended a number of designs. Those designs were winnowed to three finalists by a jury of environmentalists, architects and designers, with the reveal of the three taking place in a virtual event on the evening of Friday, September 18.
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UCSV presented each finalist with $150,000, as well as a chance to refine and develop his project plans alongside a team of artists, engineers, urban planners and others. Once that process is complete, the jury will select one winner and the winner’s team to create the final landmark that will transform Arena Green.
Finalist number 1, Fer Jerez, was honored for a design called “Breeze of Innovation.” An acclaimed architect, artist and academic, he has offices in Australia and Europe. Finalist number 2 for “Welcome to Wonderland,” Rish Ryusuke Saito, is a student at Southern California Institute of Architecture (SCI-Arc) in Los Angeles. Finalist number 3, for “Nebula Tower,” is Qinrong Liu, an architect based in Los Angeles.
All three are currently refining their projects in preparation for the jury to make its final selection in the first quarter of 2021. The monument will begin production not long after, and could take as long as three years to complete.
See the finalists here:
What was the most unexpected development to emerge from the contest? “We were overwhelmed by the widespread support received from creative people around the world,” Borkenhagen says, adding “it was incredible” to garner 963 submissions from 72 nations on a half dozen of the world’s continents.