A first look: Silicon Valley landmark designs revealed

After more than a year of anticipation, the wait is over. The new designs for San Jose’s landmark icon have been revealed — and now the public gets to weigh in.

The Urban Confluence Silicon Valley project (UCSV), hosted by the nonprofit San José Light Tower Corporation, launched a worldwide contest in July of last year to create a landmark that would make San José a must-see destination and rival icons such as the Golden Gate Bridge, the Chicago Bean or Seattle’s Space Needle. The icon will be placed in the Arena Green of Guadalupe River Park in downtown San Jose.

The design contest received 960 submissions from 72 countries in a year.  A Community Competition Panel, made up of community leaders from around the city, reviewed the submissions and recommended 47 designs to the official jury. All the designs are now available for San Joseans to browse and comment on.

The jury of prominent architects and designers will take the panel’s recommendations into consideration and select three finalists in early August.

For now, all 960 designs are available for public review and comment on the UCSV website. The designs will remain anonymous until the three finalists are selected.

Here is a look at six of the most notable designs.

Several of the designs feature elevated walking paths. One recommended by the panel, called “I am the Bear” reimagines the California state flag as an interactive structure “that interacts with its surroundings through is technological skin,” according to the project design. The exterior is made of solar panels that light up at night and project visual depictions of data collected throughout the city during the day.

Another design, “Super Natural SkyPark,” is inspired by the Northern California Redwood forests and is meant to evoke the feeling of being under a canopy of trees.  The top of the canopy structure includes a public park with picnic spots, BBQ pits and a café, and showcases views of the city.

The “Cloud Digital Art Museum” draws from both natural clouds and technological clouds, where data is stored. This design focuses on green technology, especially the capture and reuse of rainwater as climate control inside the museum. All together, it presents “an icon that will store digital art and human interactivity, at the same time, which is capable of influencing the local microclimate,” according to the submission summary.

Another design, the “Plant-Net Phyto-Link,” takes its inspiration from nature and features a vertically expanded garden. The designers say it will provide regional services such as “plantings adjusted to urban conditions, education and apprenticeship opportunities, wildlife habitat patches, and permaculture/community garden harvesting.”

The “Kinetic Obelisk” utilizes movement to dazzle visitors.  Two loops, one symbolizing humans and the other symbolizing nature, will “slowly dance” throughout the day, creating combinations that represent pairings of the human genome. Solar power will drive the robotic loops so the structure remains carbon neutral.

“The Caterpillar” celebrates the ever-changing culture and innovative spirit of Silicon Valley, according to its description. The icon stands at 200 feet tall and spans from east to west over the Guadalupe River, and allows visitors to experience a gondola ride with panoramic views.

The three finalists will each receive a $150,000 grant to refine their designs after soliciting feedback from residents and nearby businesses.

The winning design will be announced on Sept. 18.

Contact Stella Lorence at [email protected] or follow on Twitter @slorence3.

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