Winner revealed: A look at San Jose’s new iconic landmark
Breeze of Innovation, designed by Fernando Jerez, won the design competition and will become San Jose's new landmark. Courtesy of UCSV.

A worldwide contest to create an iconic landmark in downtown San Jose is over — and a winner has been chosen.

After a lengthy public process, judges selected The Breeze of Innovation from nearly 1,000 submissions.

Fernando Jerez, the director of SMAR Architecture Studio, which has offices in Australia and Spain, designed Breeze of Innovation.

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.”

Breeze of Innovation, designed by Fernando Jerez, won the design competition and will become San Jose’s new landmark. Courtesy of UCSV.

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.

Breeze of Innovation includes a unique vertical space inside the tower with multiple levels of walkways, and a viewing platform offering 360-degree views from the top of the structure. The design will also incorporate an exhibition space and room for a café, officials said.

“Silicon 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. “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.”

The search for an iconic landmark in the heart of Silicon Valley — a structure that rivals the notoriety of Seattle’s Space Needle or Chicago’s Cloud Gate — began in 2017. A group of San Jose philanthropists aspired to build a world-class landmark downtown and donate it to the city.

First they envisioned erecting a light tower at Plaza de Cesar Chavez — a 21st century update on San Jose’s original icon, a 237-foot structure adorned with electric light bulbs, built in 1881. But the plan in 2019 was replaced by an international ideas competition, which garnered 963 submissions from around the world.

In September, the organization announced the three finalists in a live fundraising event.

The Urban Confluence Silicon Valley organization has raised a total of $2.2 million for the effort.

“Thank you to the entire Urban Confluence team for their extraordinary passion, perseverance, and good work, and for presenting the opportunity to our community to embrace an iconic civic monument in the Breeze of Innovation,” Mayor Sam Liccardo said in a statement. “Future generations will never know the work they did, but they will enjoy this beautiful symbol of our past and future.”

Steve Borkenhagen, ‍executive director of Urban Confluence, said the team is “thrilled” with the winner.

“We believe it was clearly the most outstanding submission that we got,” Borkenhagen told San José Spotlight. “It’s gorgeous and poetic and will be a major change to the landscape. We love the fact that it’s in Arena Green, which will really become the center of the city in the future.”

Land use expert Bob Staedler, who writes a column for this news organization, said all great cities need inspiring public art.

“I think its great that a group of community members want to better their city and wish them the best in executing such a complex plan,” Staedler said. “Ascetically it’s pleasing … from an airplane it will be just amazing.”

Contact Carly Wipf at [email protected] or follow @CarlyChristineW on Twitter.

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