Proposed landmark designer shares thoughts on San Jose after first visit


It’s always helpful 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 last year won an international design competition to create a landmark structure in Silicon Valley.

“Breeze of Innovation” – a 200-foot-tall tower made up of 500 dynamic rods that sway lightly in the wind and generate their own lighting power – was selected from 963 global entries in the “ideas competition” Urban Confluence Silicon Valley. The project, which is slated to begin construction next year at Arena Green near the SAP Center, 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 speaks to a panel 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 the Urban Confluence 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.

“To me, San Jose has it all,” he said in an interview last week. “There are dynamic people. Everyone here has something to say and ideas. It is a place full of potential. And that’s what drove us to design this project here.

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

“Nobody knew Bilbao,” Jerez said. “The Guggenheim has 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 entire area.

There is a sense of community in America, he says, because people collaborate with each other. And after spending a week in San Jose, he thinks it’s even deeper 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. Probably the most influential city of the 20th century was New York. But if you think of the most influential place on Earth in the 21st century, it would be Silicon Valley.

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

“With this project, we always felt it was 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 move metaphorically and be able to say that’s where it all started, to see the history of Silicon Valley. That’s where the connection is.

IT’S A REAL HERO: Word is spreading about the College for Adaptive Arts in San Jose or its innovative leader DeAnna Pursai. Since 2009, the College of Adaptive Arts has provided college-equivalent educational experiences for adults with special needs — inspired by Pursai’s experience with her sister, Angel — and now it’s getting national exposure from CNN, who named Pursai one of his CNN heroes.

You can see his story online at, and you can read more about the College of Adaptive Arts at

APPLIED CONVERSATION: Jim Morgan, Chairman Emeritus of Applied Materials, will share his thoughts virtually on May 10 at the Healthier Kids Foundation’s Child Health Symposium. In addition to leading Applied Materials, Morgan co-founded the Morgan Family Foundation with his wife, former State Senator Becky Morgan, and received the National Medal of Technology from President Bill Clinton. He is also the author of a few books sharing the title “Applied Wisdom”, including one aimed at nonprofit leaders.

Morgan’s online chat with Irene Chavez, senior vice president and area manager for Kaiser San Jose, caps off a morning of speakers. Speakers include Susan Ellenberg, Santa Clara County Supervisor, and Flojaune Cofer, keynote speaker, an epidemiologist who serves as senior policy director for Sacramento-based public health attorneys. You can register for the 9-hour symposium at, and everyone who does will receive a copy of Morgan’s book.

THE BEERWALK STRIKES BACK: It seems like forever ago when wine and beer walks happened all the time, so I’m glad to see The Beerwalk is back with a ‘Star Wars’ themed edition in Japantown from San Jose on May 4 (which is Star Wars Day because “May the Fourth Be With You” and, you know, just Google).

Of course, no event is spared by COVID-19, so instead of multiple merchants participating this time, tastings will be limited to three locations – Jack’s Bar, JTown Pizza and 7 Bamboo. A $40 ticket will purchase unlimited tastings at the dozen breweries represented, including Camino Brewing, Del Cielo Brewing, Fox Tales Fermentation Project, and S27 Alehouse and Tea West Hard Tea. Go to for tickets.


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