Students bring street life to Fountain Alley

Click on the image to check out more pictures from our Fountain Alley Prototyping event

SAN JOSE – San Jose State University industrial design students showed today how Fountain Alley could look in the near future, creating life-size models that would transform the alley from avoidable place into a lively, vibrant, walkable and memorable public space.

“We are trying to bring an interest back to Fountain Alley that was lost,” said Kenneth Gordon, student, “while connecting Fountain Alley to the community in a way that makes them feel most comfortable.”

Working in partnership with San Jose Downtown Association, student teams created prototypes for seating, planters, hanging gardens, birdhouses, mobile solar hubs and lighting, mini-parks and stages in the alley, a part of a National Register Historic District.

The Design for All class gathered community input over the past five months to provide inspiration for their projects.  They used Local Color across from the alley on South First Street as a staging studio to build out their ideas.  The culmination of the semester was the display of urban-design creations for three hours on Monday.

One large structure supported wind chimes. Another model shaped to resemble a giant flower doubled as a streetlight and had a large leaf for seating.  One group working on seating has created a large canopy of swings.

“In terms of solving the problems, we consider the human senses and aesthetic, and modernizing that aesthetic,” said Shafik Huffman, a student working on the bird houses and wind chimes group.

Added Alex McFadden, another SJSU student:   “We are creating community, not just bringing in the community.”

SJSU’s CommUniverCity program, which seeks opportunities to engage the local community, reached out to SJDA Street Life Manager Jason Su to offer its students’ information-gathering and creative design services, and to offer fresh perspective on Fountain Alley, said Dayana Salazar, CommUniverCity executive director.  Industrial Design Professor Leslie Speer took the academic lead and Master of Urban Planning student Nicole Guzman served as project coordinator.  Su assembled downtown residents and artists to gather ideas and arranged the work space for students.

“The Fountain Alley project exemplifies the power of collaboration,” Speer said.  “The generous donation of time and creative thinking by the local community has made this project as much of a success as the student work.”

Other recent efforts resulting in a swell of positive momentum for Fountain Alley include a beautification and cleanup project by the San Jose Sharks Foundation in April and a temporary pop-up art gallery sponsored by Knight Foundation and 8-80 Cities.

“We greatly appreciate the many bright SJSU students who offered their creativity, energy and imagination to illustrate the future possibilities for Fountain Alley as a vibrant and active public space,” said Mayor Sam Liccardo.  “This project provides a great example of our community coming together to tackle challenges and create a common vision for the future.”

The District Attorney’s Community Prosecution Unit helped with designs for the renovated space.  The Office’s participation in this event is part of an ongoing partnership with SJDA and other community groups to prevent crime along Fountain Alley and improve the public safety of all residents and visitors of downtown San Jose.

“Someday soon only a few people will remember that Fountain Alley was a place to pass by,” said Santa Clara District Attorney Jeff Rosen.  “Now, instead of crime, we have creativity.  Instead of graffiti, we have art.  Instead of a place to do drugs, there is a place for a child to swing.  With some fresh paint, elbow grease and cooperation, we are making downtown San Jose a better place to live, work and visit.”

The DA’s Office also supported the “Phylum of the Free” mural that overlooks the alley, which represents the first dramatic improvement on the alley, created in 2015.

Rosen joined SJDA President Stan Vuckovich, and SJSU Provost Andy Feinstein in a brief ceremony Monday to acknowledge the student efforts.