Made @ The Tech

Spring 2015

Knight Foundation, The Tech imagine possibilities for City Hall plaza

San Jose has worked for decades to establish its downtown as a vibrant, active Silicon Valley hub. The Tech, with its prime location at downtown’s heart, is partnering to build on recent momentum and catalyze new efforts toward this goal.

The Tech’s primary collaborator is Gehl Studio, the renowned global firm that specializes in people-centered urban design. Together we are reimagining City Hall Plaza — how it can engage and inspire residents and employees, bring communities together, and infuse innovation into San Jose government. With the support of a Knight Foundation grant, we hope this project will be a springboard for other initiatives to create a stronger sense of place all over the city.

Early in 2015 The Tech conducted research and interviews to understand how residents and workers think about San Jose and its spaces, including their hopes, dreams, and aspirations for their city. This research will complement Gehl’s Public Space Public Life Survey, a quantitative look at who uses San Jose’s public spaces and how, and its Favorite Places Workshop, which invites community members to contribute their ideas.

Next, the team built quick and rough prototype designs that meet community goals — solutions that change the way people use and perceive the space such as new seating, surfaces, shade structures, and communication tools. Based on the results, The Tech is making recommendations to City Hall for the creation of vibrant public spaces. We hope to catalyze public–private partnerships to make San Jose as appealing as possible to workers, business owners, and residents.

This project will infuse innovation into City Hall culture, too. Opened in 2005, City Hall lacks a central gathering place for employees where spontaneous conversations can generate new ideas. There is no available space to create one indoors. More plaza prototypes will be designed to encourage interaction among different departments, prompting deeper collaboration.

This effort is The Tech’s first step in a wider one to foster civic innovation in San Jose. Recently we were named a finalist in the Knight Cities Challenge for our Civic One initiative, which invites the public to imagine and test solutions to one significant city issue each year. And all of this is a natural fit with our mission: to inspire the innovator in everyone. We are thrilled to be part of Knight Foundation’s effort to help San Jose transform into South Bay’s urban hub.

The Tech wouldn’t exist without the support of San Jose residents, elected officials, and taxpayers. It’s our privilege to work with our hometown to imagine and invent a new future together.