Westbank proposes urban redevelopment in San Jose, California

Kengo Kuma & Associates, Bjarke Ingels Group, and Studio Gang propose projects for the Westbank Campus redevelopment in San Jose, taking on Silicon Valley’s built environment.

by STIRworldPublished on : May 28, 2021

In a striking manifesto, the Westbank Campus highlights its vision to reimagine the city of San Jose, California, including projects by Kengo Kuma and Associates, Bjarke Ingels Group, James KM Cheng Architects, WRNS Studio and Studio Gang. One of the most significant aspects of this manifesto is the acknowledgement that while Silicon Valley has in many ways been at the vanguard of technology and innovation, the built environment and urban planning of the city has not adapted in the same way. Referencing German philosopher Andreas Weber’s philosophy of ‘aliveness’, the Westbank Campus proposes a new way of inhabiting spaces. Having projected San Jose as a future hub for Silicon Valley, the new proposal is estimated to create 700 new residences, five million square feet of office space.

Park Habitat designed by Kengo Kuma and Associates

  • Rendering of Park Habitat designed by Kengo Kuma and Associates | Westbank | Kengo Kuma and Associates, Bjarke Ingels Group, Studio Gang, James K.M. Cheng Architects, WRNS Studio | STIRworld
    Rendering of Park Habitat designed by Kengo Kuma and Associates Image: Courtesy of Westbank
  •  Visualisation of Park Habitat by Kengo Kuma and Associates | Westbank | Kengo Kuma and Associates, Bjarke Ingels Group, Studio Gang, James K.M. Cheng Architects, WRNS Studio | STIRworld
    Visualisation of Park Habitat by Kengo Kuma and Associates Image: Courtesy of Westbank

Built in collaboration with Adamson Associates Architects, the Park Habitat is a commercial space. The idea grows from a need to re-evaluate our understanding of workspaces by bringing pockets of nature into the building and creating a series of indoor, outdoor and semi-outdoor spaces. In a letter on the building, Kengo Kuma concluded the intended impact of this new building saying, “We need health, safety, comfort — and beauty — achievable by the fundamentals of clean air, light, water, and vegetation. With dedication this will also be a positive addition to San Jose’s civic life, and simply a great place to be. This vision for San Jose’s future is happening now, with Park Habitat as an outspoken example". The building is a response to the desire to uplift the urban architecture of San Jose.

Bank of Italy designed by Bjarke Ingels Group

  • Aerial view of the Bank of Italy designed by Bjarke Ingels Group | Westbank | Kengo Kuma and Associates, Bjarke Ingels Group, Studio Gang, James K.M. Cheng Architects, WRNS Studio | STIRworld
    Aerial view of the Bank of Italy designed by Bjarke Ingels Group Image: Courtesy of Westbank
  • Fountain Alley Tower | Westbank | Kengo Kuma and Associates, Bjarke Ingels Group, Studio Gang, James K.M. Cheng Architects, WRNS Studio | STIRworld
    Fountain Alley Tower Image: Courtesy of Westbank
  • External staircase close up view | Westbank | Kengo Kuma and Associates, Bjarke Ingels Group, Studio Gang, James K.M. Cheng Architects, WRNS Studio | STIRworld
    External staircase close up view Image: Courtesy of Westbank

The new cityscape features two interventions by the Bjarke Ingels Group. In an official statement the studio said, “BIG’s first project in San Jose will also be one of the first steps towards the city’s redevelopment as a pioneer of sustainable urbanism that places people at its core”. Housed inside one of San Jose landmark Bank of Italy buildings is BIG’s restorative intervention, to convert the former back into a commercial building. The idea was to restore the original grandeur of the building, while addressing the more modern needs of Silicon Valley.

The Energy Hub designed by Bjarke Ingels Group

  • The Energy Hub designed by Bjarke Ingels Group | Westbank | Kengo Kuma and Associates, Bjarke Ingels Group, Studio Gang, James K.M. Cheng Architects, WRNS Studio | STIRworld
    The Energy Hub designed by Bjarke Ingels Group Image: Courtesy of Westbank
  • View of the Arch| Westbank | Kengo Kuma and Associates, Bjarke Ingels Group, Studio Gang, James K.M. Cheng Architects, WRNS Studio | STIRworld
    View of the Arch Image: Courtesy of Westbank
  • Office Lobby Exterior | Westbank | Kengo Kuma and Associates, Bjarke Ingels Group, Studio Gang, James K.M. Cheng Architects, WRNS Studio | STIRworld
    Office Lobby Exterior Image: Courtesy of Westbank

Standing in juxtaposition of a historic architectural landmark of the Bank of Italy will be BIG’s skyline defining the Energy Hub building. The Bank of Italy and The Energy Hub are designed to be interrelated projects on two connecting sites. In a statement on the project, Ingels said, “The Energy Hub brings nature into the unexpected by creating hybrids of landscape and architecture, inviting people to reconnect with nature. The rooftop is an oasis in the city with visual connections to the surrounding mountain range and tree canopies".

The Orchard Residential Building designed by James KM Cheng Architects and Workspace Buildings designed by WRNS Studio

  • The Orchard Campus | Westbank | Kengo Kuma and Associates, Bjarke Ingels Group, Studio Gang, James K.M. Cheng Architects, WRNS Studio | STIRworld
    The Orchard Campus Image: Courtesy of Westbank
  • Residential building | Westbank | Kengo Kuma and Associates, Bjarke Ingels Group, Studio Gang, James K.M. Cheng Architects, WRNS Studio | STIRworld
    Residential building Image: Courtesy of Westbank
  • Atrium view| Westbank | Kengo Kuma and Associates, Bjarke Ingels Group, Studio Gang, James K.M. Cheng Architects, WRNS Studio | STIRworld
    Atrium view Image: Courtesy of Westbank

The Orchard is exactly what it sounds like, a green building that manifests as a green tower. As one of the largest buildings in terms of built form, the mixed-use campus is split between two design firms. James KM Cheng Architects take the lead on the residential project, and WRNS Studio, a firm with intimate local knowledge on the tech of the tech community, takes charge of the Workspace building. Kyle Elliott, Partner at WRNS Studio, in a comment to STIR said, “The Orchard will create an entirely unique public realm for the SOFA district of San Jose – food offerings of all kinds in the market space and restaurants plus public lawn and plaza space imagined as a fully functioning apricot orchard".

Arbor designed by Studio Gang

  • Arbor designed by Studio Gang | Westbank | Kengo Kuma and Associates, Bjarke Ingels Group, Studio Gang, James K.M. Cheng Architects, WRNS Studio | STIRworld
    Arbor designed by Studio Gang Image: Courtesy of Westbank
  • Arbor is driven by seven principles namely; innovation, workplace quality, agility, sense of place, visibility, streetscape and value | Westbank | Kengo Kuma and Associates, Bjarke Ingels Group, Studio Gang, James K.M. Cheng Architects, WRNS Studio | STIRworld
    Arbor is driven by seven principles - innovation, workplace quality, agility, sense of place, visibility, streetscape and value Image: Courtesy of Westbank
  • Studio Gang chose to integrate a neighbouring building into its architecture | Westbank | Kengo Kuma and Associates, Bjarke Ingels Group, Studio Gang, James K.M. Cheng Architects, WRNS Studio | STIRworld
    Studio Gang chose to integrate a neighbouring building into its architecture Image: Courtesy of Westbank

The concept of Arbor is driven by seven principles namely - innovation, workplace quality, agility, sense of place, visibility, streetscape and value. All these principles enhance the inhabited space by blurring the line between our environment and the lives we live. An interesting contextual decision Studio Gang chose to integrate a neighbouring building into its architecture. With the use of bridges, strategic openings, and enveloping facade systems, the proposal links the past and the present while minimising the carbon footprint. As part of their project narrative, Studio Gang said, “Framed and screened exterior cladding and layered thresholds finely tune this relationship between inside and out, bringing natural light and air into the interior while providing shade and wind protection where needed to create comfortable “micro-climates” for working, socialising, and varied vegetation".

Can Kengo Kuma, Bjarke Ingels, Studio Gang, James KM Cheng Architects and WRNS Studio save the unbalanced urban sprawl of Silicon Valley? Time will tell.

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