Creating a Silicon Valley Monument

The words “Silicon Valley” are ubiquitous for the birthplace of high tech. Everyone knows where Silicon Valley is and the importance it’s played in the technology industry. The one thing Silicon Valley doesn’t have is an iconic landmark that visually defines it.

That’s where the San Jose Light Tower Corporation (SJLTC) comes in. Formed in 2017, the non-profit organization is spearheading the funding, design, and installation of just such a monument. Former construction exec, Jon Ball, founded SJLTC after his wife commented while driving on a local freeway that there is nothing distinguishable about Silicon Valley’s largest urban center. That remark was the catalyst for the creation SJLTC’s “bold vision of creating an artistic and iconic landmark in downtown San Jose.”

According to the organization’s website, “The new, distinctive, and world-class public landmark will be a gathering place that produces civic pride, spurs economic development, and is a “must-see” for visitors and locals alike.”

On March 12th, the San Jose City Council approved the organization’s proposal. The next step is to launch an international design competition in the next few months. Three finalists will be chosen by an eleven-member jury to include two representatives from an environmental group; an agent from the City of San Jose; a community representative from a nearby neighborhood; a San Jose Light Tower Corporation delegate; an internationally acclaimed artist; a prominent local or internationally architect; a “placemaking expert”; and a well-respected community design expert.

The chosen design for the privately-funded monument could be installed as early as 2021 in Guadalupe River Park’s Arena Green. To date, the organization has raised about $1 million in private funds. The landmark will be a gift to San Jose and no tax dollars will be used. Since the Arena Green, which is by Google’s future San Jose location, merges with the Guadalupe River and Los Gatos Creek, the Guadalupe River Park Conservancy will monitor the monument’s installation for any potential ecological issues.

The big question is: what symbolizes the Silicon Valley? Can a monument be created that will fully embody and define the high-tech hub while also garnering interest akin to that of Seattle’s Space Needle, the Eiffel Tower in Paris, and our neighbor to the north, San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge? As artnet news suggested, might the monument be “…a hoodie-wearing tech-bro memorialized in bronze? An enormous marble slab engraved with a complex privacy policy in extremely tiny font? A massive rainbow pinwheel of death?”

Since the Arena Green lies in the flight path of Norman Y. Mineta San Jose International Airport, there will be height restrictions and, because of its placement, it will not be visible to passengers as they descent into or fly out of the airport.

Another potential reason for the monument is to give San Jose more clout as a tourist destination. As one San Jose man stated during a community meeting, all of his visitors want to head straight for San Francisco. The hope is, the future Silicon Valley landmark will boost San Jose’s allure for out-of-towners as a destination versus a pass-through to the City by the Bay.

One thing is for certain, designers and artists around the world will soon have the opportunity to define the aesthetic of Silicon Valley’s future Arena Green monument.

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