Proposed landmark designer shares thoughts on San Jose after first visit

It’s always valuable to hear a visitor’s perspective on San Jose. And it’s even more interesting when that visitor is Fernando Jerez, the founder of SMAR Architecture Studio in Australia which won an international design competition last year to create a landmark structure in Silicon Valley.

“Breeze of Innovation” — a 200-foot tall tower made of 500 dynamic rods that sway slightly in the wind and generate their own illumination power — was selected from among 963 global entries in Urban Confluence Silicon Valley‘s “ideas competition.” The project, expected to begin construction next year at Arena Green near SAP Center, has nods to San Jose’s original 1881 electric light tower and the rods represent the startups and legacy companies that created the valley.

Fernando Jerez of SMAR Architecture Studio in Australia speakers to a group about his landmark design, “Breeze of Innovation,” at the San Jose Museum of Art on Friday, April 22, 2022. (Sal Pizarro/Bay Area News Group)

And until about two weeks ago, Jerez — who splits his time between Perth, Australia and his native Madrid — had never been to San Jose. But Urban Confluence’s team — Executive Director Steve Borkenhagen and board members Jon Ball, Christine Davis and Fernando Zazueta — gave him a tour of the city and introduced him to stakeholders. And he likes what he sees.

“San Jose for me has everything,” he said in an interview last week. “It has dynamic people. Everybody here has something to say and ideas. This is a place full of potential. And this is what attracted us to design this project here.”

San Jose’s downtown is quieter than European cities of similar size, he said, but he likes the proximity of the airport and the train station and sees where his project could become part of the urban infrastructure. Breeze of Innovation, he said, could provide a similar boost to San Jose as the Frank Gehry-designed Guggenheim Museum did for Bilbao, Spain, when it opened in 1997.

“Nobody knew about Bilbao,” Jerez said. “The Guggenheim completely transformed the city. That’s why we saw this project not as an object but as a trigger. When completed, it will develop the whole area.”

There’s a sense of community in America, he said, because people collaborate with each other. And after spending a week in San Jose, he thinks that is even more profound in Silicon Valley, where he said individuals and the community seem to work together.

“We really think Silicon Valley is a special place,” he said. “In the 19th century, Paris was the city that embraced the world. The most influential city in the 20th century was probably New York. But if you think of the most influential place on Earth in the 21st century, that would be Silicon Valley.”

Jerez says he envisions Breeze of Innovation as a new way to represent the valley, with the rods as “magic wands” wielded by tech wizards. People will be able to look out from the towering structure and see the site of the garage where Hewlett and Packard started their company in 1949, where Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak created Apple in 1976, and where Google was born in 1998.

“With this project we always thought that it’s a huge opportunity for San Jose to capitalize on Silicon Valley,” he said. “From the heart of San Jose, to see all these magic wands metaphorically moving and being able to say this is where all this started, to see the story of Silicon Valley. That’s where the connection is.”

SHE’S A REAL HERO: The word is getting out about the College for Adaptive Arts in San Jose or its innovative leader DeAnna Pursai. Since 2009, the College of Adaptive Arts has been providing college-equivalent educational experiences for special needs adults — inspired by Pursai ‘s experience her with her sister her, Angel — and now it ‘s getting national exposure from CNN, which named Pursai one of its CNN Heroes.

You can see her story online at www.cnn.com/specials/cnn-heroesand you can find out more about the College of Adaptive Arts at www.collegeofadaptivearts.org.

APPLIED CONVERSATION: Jim Morgan, chairman emeritus of Applied Materials, will be sharing his thoughts virtually on May 10 at the Healthier Kids Foundation’s Symposium on Children’s Health. In addition to leading Applied Materials, Morgan co-founded the Morgan Family Foundation with his wife his, former State Sen. Becky Morgan, and was awarded the National Medal of Technology by President Bill Clinton. He’s also the author of a couple of books sharing the title, “Applied Wisdom,” including one directed at nonprofit leaders.

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