Staedler: Let’s celebrate the iconic public art
Breeze of Innovation, designed by Fernando Jerez, won a design competition to create an iconic landmark in San Jose. Image courtesy of UCSV.

San Jose lost an icon last week.

Charles W. Davidson passed away at the age of 90. He was a mentor to me and I don’t have the writing skills to give him the reverence he deserves. San José Spotlight has done several stories on him and we recorded a Podlight podcast where I spoke with Janice Bitters about her phenomenal story about his life. We need to celebrate the icons that make our community better and we need to uplift members of our community working tirelessly to improve San Jose.

One group that has been in the news lately is the Urban Confluence Silicon Valley nonprofit organization. They’ve selected a winner in their iconic landmark public art contest. The winner selected among the 1,000 submissions is The Breeze of Innovation. As San José Spotlight reported, it consists of 500 flexible rods, each 200-feet-high, that sway in the breeze. The energy created by that motion will be used to provide electricity to the building and light up the rods at night. According to the proposal, the hundreds of rods “represent the hundreds of different companies and individuals working together in Silicon Valley.”

The project will be built in Arena Green, at the southern tip of Guadalupe River Park where the river meets Los Gatos Creek. The Urban Confluence Silicon Valley organization, a nonprofit, fundraised and solicited donations from residents and businesses to help fund the project and will gift it to San Jose.

It is unfortunately predictable that naysayers will attack this noble pursuit of iconic public art. They hide oftentimes nameless in the comment section of the news stories and social media platforms where it is discussed. While it would be naïve for me to ask our community to put your names by the negative comments, I will ask for you to appreciate the time and energy that goes into great endeavors. Let’s have an open mind and let this project work through the process. While I was skeptical at the beginning, I have come around and believe that they have the best of intentions and don’t expect taxpayer dollars to subsidize this.

As we see the light at the end of the COVID-19 tunnel we’ve been enduring, let’s celebrate projects that have a focus on innovative placemaking. The need for public open space is more important than ever and having an iconic structure like this would be welcomed by future generations. It is a complex plan, but great things are never easy.

Let’s celebrate the group at Urban Confluence for their dreams of iconic public art. Onward and upward.

San José Spotlight columnist Bob Staedler is a principal at Silicon Valley Synergy, a San Jose-based land use and development consulting firm. His columns appear every first Monday of the month. Contact Bob at [email protected] or follow @BobStaedler on Twitter.

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