As San Jose’s profile begins to grow as a viable urban option in the the South Bay, the leaders of city both in city hall and in the community, need to start promoting more ways to bring different and better design into the city. Emphasis on good design has increased in importance over the last few years, which has lead to discussions that have transformed many of the new projects being developed within downtown. But the discussion needs to be pushed further, and new ideas need to be brought into the city. One way of doing that is by hosting an international design competition.
Raising money for a competition of this level could be done a number of ways. First, is through community partnerships with groups like: the American Institute for Architects, Urban Land Institute, SPUR, Silicon Valley Leadership Group, and the Downtown Association. Other community members such as local companies or design firms may also want partner in the event. Second, money could be crowd sourced through a Kickstarter program. Who better to fund an event than the citizens of the city. This could be a more difficult path, but ultimately could still involve groups from option one. Lastly, with enough buzz, bringing in a TV channel like HGTV, to film the competition might be the least likely option, but one that if sold properly could work in bringing enough money to fund the competition. As a side note, HGTV might be the perfect partner, as they are already filming in San Jose for “Flip It To Win It.” On top of any funding they could add, any national TV exposure would really add to the legitimacy of the competition and could help in ensuring another design competition in future.
After funding the location is the next biggest question, and St. James Park is the answer. St. James Park has been the scourge of downtown for decades. The benefits of a competition like this in the park could have as much social impact for the city, as what San Pedro Square Market has already done. What better way to increase the park’s appeal than to hold teams from all over the world creating new ideas for the park itself. The competition would need parameters. The goal would be to create a meaningful structure to add to the park. Whether it be temporary or permanent, a cafe or pavilion, public art or a garden, the teams would all start with similar supplies and a blank podium. The park could then be blocked off for 1-2 months, to allow teams time to build out within their area of the park. Once the time is over, judges from the community partnerships would then critique the projects and award a winner who would receive a monetary award from the money raised and the go ahead to complete their winning proposal within the park.
An international design competition would be San Jose a huge step, for a city that has historically stayed very conservative within the urban design setting. It would prove to not only the Bay Area, but to the world that design matters and that the city is looking to the future, and is not shy about how it may look. By bringing in new ideas, San Joseans would have the world of modern, sustainable, adaptable, renewable, and progressive architecture at its eyeballs, physically in front of them. It could be a catalyst for new architecture throughout the city, and inspiration for younger generations who may visit the park on school trips to learn about the competition and architecture. This is an opportunity for San Jose to make a statement that design matters, and that no matter where it comes from, if your design is good, then San Jose wants it. Though a competition like this is a huge undertaking, the impact it could have on the city could shift the aesthetics of downtown for generations.