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Iconic Light Monument Sought for Silicon Valley Tech Hub

Posted by San Jose Light Tower Corporation ; Posted on 
Public Art; Visual - DEADLINE :  
Iconic Light Monument Sought for Silicon Valley Tech Hub


The San José Light Tower Corporation announces the launch of Urban Confluence Silicon Valley (The Competition), an international open ideas competition. Artists, architects, urban planners, landscape architects, students, designers, engineers, and anyone with a passion for place-making is invited to submit ideas for creation of an iconic landmark project to enhance community life in San José, California, the largest city in Silicon Valley. Representing the region with prestigious allure, this enduring and distinctive project will be part of a world-class gathering place infused with the magic and spirit of innovation. This urban masterpiece will exist in harmony with nature, build civic pride, and spur economic development. This landmark will be a “must-see” attraction that inspires locals and visitors from around the world, creating a destination for people of all ages and abilities.

BUDGET: No construction budget specified; 3 finalists will each receive $150,000 to create proposals

ELIGIBILITY: None specified

DEADLINE:  January 15, 2020 1pm Pacific Time

Download full RFQ here.  Additional resources for submitters are located here.

NOTE:  This opportunity requires applicants to submit preliminary design ideas as part of the application process.  These preliminary concepts are to be provided without compensation.

Project Description

San José is America’s tenth largest city (population 1,035,000) and the largest urban center in Silicon Valley, fueling the imagination of the world as the global center of innovation and technology. In spite of these unique virtues, there is no defining artistic or architectural landmark in the region. With a Mediterranean climate, a highly educated and diverse work force, proximity to world-class universities, and access to immense financial capital, the region is poised to make a design statement that both defines and connects its people.

Civic leaders, working with local government, have selected a site within walking distance of Diridon Station, the transportation hub referred to as “the future Grand Central Station of the West”. Anticipated growth in the downtown area could include up to 8,000 dwelling units, 12 million square feet of commercial and retail space, one million square feet of retail, and approximately 3,000 hotel rooms. Across the street from the competition site is the SAP Center, home to the San José Sharks of the National Hockey League. Each year this arena hosts approximately 175 events, attracting over 1.5 million people. The site is across West Santa Clara Street from the future Google transit-oriented village. The landmark will be located in a downtown city park, at the confluence of Los Gatos Creek and the Guadalupe River. The icon will be a catalyst for the reinvigoration of the three-mile-long Guadalupe River Park and Gardens.

Embracing the themes of innovation, collaboration, community building, and respect for the environment, this artistic or architectural icon will serve as the heart of the community, creating a destination for residents and visitors alike. Successful submissions will demonstrate world-class place-making strategies for day and night activities and include spectacular lighting elements (subject to limitations outlined in this brief).

The Competition is managed by the San José Light Tower Corporation, a not-for-profit organization led by residents of San José and other Silicon Valley cities who are passionate about downtown San José and the role that design can play in building community. Through exceptional fundraising efforts and relationship building, this group has developed a strong working partnership with local government and philanthropy. Although the idea for the competition was inspired by the San José Electric Light Tower (constructed in 1881 in downtown San José and collapsing during a storm in 1915), the competition does not seek a replica or re-interpretation of this structure. Submitters are encouraged to use unique yet environmentally sensitive lighting in their submissions; however, all should consider the original light tower only as an inspiration, and not as a model for replication.

Site Information

Located on the critical artery of West Santa Clara Street next to the SAP Center (a popular sports and entertainment venue), the competition site is Arena Green at Guadalupe River Park and Gardens, a City of San José downtown park. The site is across the street from a 6-8 million square foot future transit-oriented Google Village and is only two blocks from Diridon Station, soon to be transformed into one of the most prominent transportation hubs in the United States, with an expected ridership of 140,000 per day by 2040. This multi-modal station will include county light rail and buses, BART (regional transit system), Caltrain (California train system), a potential new high-speed rail network (California transit system), and Amtrak (national train system). All of these developments provide ample potential for growth of restaurants, bars, retail stores, hotels, service businesses, and residences within the area. The total area of Arena Green at Guadalupe Park is approximately 14.3 acres (621,000 SF). Various limitations (including the riparian corridor surrounding the Guadalupe River and Los Gatos Creek) restrict buildable area on the competition site to:

  • West Side available area = approximately 3.2 acres (141,000 SF)
  • East Side available area = approximately 1.7 acres (76,000 SF)
  • Total available area = approximately 5.0 acres (217,000 SF)

The site contains a number of attributes that entrants should carefully consider in their submissions. These include:

  • Ecology of the site
  • River and creek
  • Underground flood control systems
  • Public art works that are site specific that may not be moved
  • Proximity to the Norman Y. Mineta San José International Airport

Detailed maps and studies are available.

Artwork Goals

  • Create an iconic destination that builds civic pride and welcomes diverse communities from throughout the world
  • Celebrate the culture of innovation of the region
  • Invoke net-zero energy design principles in the design of the site
  • Establish a strong visual presence during the day, at night, and at a distance
  • Demonstrate respect for the environment within the Los Gatos Creek/Guadalupe River area while using environmentally sensitive unique lighting (subject to limitations described in Resources for Submitters)

Selection Process

The Competition has two phases. Phase 1 is an “open competition” that invites individuals and teams of artists, architects, urban planners, landscape architects, students, designers, engineers, and anyone with a passion for place-making to submit ideas. Anyone with a passion for place-making is welcome to submit. At the end of Phase 1 a highly qualified independent Jury of eleven will select three finalists (individuals or teams) from the open competition. In Phase 2, the three finalists will each receive a $150,000 stipend to refine their project proposals. At the end of Phase 2 (July 2020) The Jury will choose a single winner from the three finalists’ designs.

  • Phase 1-Step 1 Following the submission deadline (January 15, 2020), submittals will be posted on the Urban Confluence Silicon Valley website.
  • Phase 1-Step 2 The Community Competition Panel will review entries and recommend up to 50 entries to The Jury. These entries will be printed and exhibited in San José at a public exhibition in February 2020. Public comment will be shared with The Community Competition Panel and The Jury. By submitting an entry, entrants agree to the public display of their submissions. The Community Competition Panel will be comprised of local architects, artists, designers, and community leaders.
  • Phase 1-Step 3 The Jury will select three entries as competition finalists and announce them in March 2020 at a public event. The Jury will be comprised of local, national, and international professionals including architects, artists, place-makers, local residents, and environmentalists. Names of submitting individuals and teams will NOT be shared with the Community Competition Panel or The Jury until after the three finalists are announced.

If necessary, San José Light Tower Corporation will help finalists identify additional project team members, such as, but not limited to:

  • Licensed California landscape architect
  • Licensed California architect
  • Licensed California structural engineer
  • Lighting designer/artist

What to Submit

  1. Two renderings (images) of proposed design.
  2. Short (100 word) project summary for promotional use and distribution.
  3. Names of submitter(s), short bio(s), and contact information. (Note: Members of the Community Competition Panel and The Jury will NOT know the names of any creators of submittals during Phase 1.)
  4. Design Presentation Board File. The Design Presentation Board includes a 200-400 word summary of concept and design approach for the design and the site, including a description of the ways the design meets the design objectives of the competition.

How to Submit

The Competition uses Submittable for its online submission process.



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