San Jose, California, USA
Kengo Kuma’s Park Habitat for Westbank together with associate architects Adamson Associates and landscape architects CMG Landscape Architecture answers with a nature-based concept for living and working in a city known for its innovative spirit.
The 20-story building has a glass and wood facade covered with vines and planters and is located in downtown San Jose in the middle of Silicon Valley, California.
Westbank founder Ian Gillespie comments: “I do not want to work inside when I can work outside.”
With this spirit, the project maximizes the amount of time across the year that it can function without conditioned air while making use of vegetation to improve the indoor air quality.
This way the quality of air is as close as possible to the same fresh condition as one would breathe outdoors.
The architect/developer team’s design is both a lofty dream and a rigorous investigation, anchoring such vision in tested, deliberate reality—an ethos of optimized performance goals informing aesthetics, rather than only the reverse.
In Kuma’s approach, both are essential, keeping our head in the clouds while planting our feet firmly on the ground.
Park Habitat answers with a nature-based concept for living and working in a city known for its innovative spirit.
The design is both a lofty dream and a rigorous investigation, anchoring such vision in tested, deliberate reality—an ethos of optimized performance goals informing aesthetics, rather than only the reverse.
In the approach, both are essential, keeping heads in the clouds while planting the feet firmly on the ground.
San Jose combines a rich history of cultural exchange and contemporary technologies with specific Californian climates.
The downtown experience however generally consists of many buildings unrelated to their surroundings or each other, and much of the newer architecture anonymously underrepresenting the tech forward developments taking place within.
Kuma’s opportunity lies in reversal, from office park to “park office,” putting nature into the building instead of the other way around.
Park Habitat consequently becomes nature, merging with its context, and not a separate entity standing behaviorally apart from its environment.
Strong relationships to nature are essential to our quality of life.
Park Habitat breathes with an outsized vertical courtyard called the Green Lung.
The biophilic stance of the building is systemic and performative, not just metaphorical: the shape and proportions of the space rely on wind pressures in tandem with operable facades, thermal mass, and vegetation to draw air into the spaces by day, and to flush air and heat by night — architectural inhalation and exhalation on a 24 hour cycle.
The Green Lung brings light deep into each floor and surprises as a vertical garden, pervading the building’s atmospheres.
Other features relate the design to nature by interrelated systems, by aesthetics, or a combination of these.
Varying outdoor terraces connect people directly to fresh air and outdoor leisure space at each level (many providing air to the Green Lung), and all facades use carefully calibrated vegetated screening and louvers in accordance to sunlight in each cardinal direction.
The building lifts at the base to provide a large, covered porch for the city, connecting Park Avenue to the adjacent Paseo, while the roof features an inhabited terrain—unexpected forested landscape and a signature grove, for outdoor activities, with a superior view over San Jose.
Less apparent strategies including a wetland for water treatment and an all-electric energy infrastructure aim for an intended LEED Platinum certification.
When Westbank approached Kuma for their seventh collaboration, the world was unknowingly at the start of a pandemic.
No one anticipated the unprecedented demands on design but also the intensive remote coordination required to realize it.
The extended team, with Adamson Associates Inc. and an unusually deep group of engineers and technical experts, are working to realize this complex and ambitious project.
Even without the pandemic, it would have harnessed San Jose’s characteristics for a place-specific environmental response, but current conditions demand even more holistic breadth and detail in designing for a new, flexible, natural way of life.
“San Jose presents the opportunity to demonstrate to the world that the solutions to our greatest challenges can be achieved by helping our cities live up to their full potential. Our Park Habitat project marks a starting point in what we hope will become a broader contribution to Silicon Valley as a whole,” Ian Gillespie continues..
“At Park Habitat, the intent was clear from the onset. For our first significant project in Silicon Valley I chose Kengo Kuma for a very deliberate reason: Kuma-San has risen to the pinnacle of his profession by blurring the lines between nature and the built environment.”
“His practice is dedicated to making buildings less definitive or solid and more ephemeral. In essence, creating a particular condition more than a particular architecture,” Gillespie explains.
According to Kuma, “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.”
Project: Park Habitat
Architects: Kengo Kuma & Associates
Associate Architects: Adamson Associates Inc.
Landscape Architects: CMG Landscape Architecture
Developer: Westbank Corp.