San Jose’s New Culture HQ

The historic St. James Square neighborhood in downtown San Jose is now home to another worldwide center of creative exploits. ZER01, the organization that produces the 01SJ biennial festival of art and technology, officially opened its new permanent command center at St. James Place, 152 N. Third St., last week. Thanks to the donations of many entities, the new high-tech office occupies two floors and gives ZER01 a solid planning headquarters for year-round programming as well as a place to host visiting artists and a meeting space for its partners to gather and exchange ideas. The facility is slick.

At the party, plans for the third 01SJ Biennial on Sept. 15–19, 2010, were unveiled for the many movers and shakers who attended. The curatorial theme for the next biennial will be “Build Your Own World,” predicated on the notion that “artists, designers, engineers, architects, marketers, corporations and citizens have the tools to (re)build the world, conceptually and actually, virtually and physically, poorly and better, aesthetically and pragmatically, in both large and small ways.”

Several students from the CADRE New Media Lab at SJSU talked about their art projects, and one room even featured a video of the elaborate high-tech installations that will be located in the new terminal at the airport, some of which look pretty darn spiffy. For those who can’t wait for a dose of the future, the SubZERO street festival will be part of the June 5 First Friday event downtown.

When contemplating the snazzy new ZER01 headquarters, coupled with the entire circus of putting on and executing the 01SJ festival—the long hard slog of fundraising; the analytical conversations and flowcharts in the boardroom meetings; the beer and the wine; the miles of Ethernet cabling, the borrowed server racks and the graphics processing cards; an occasional pre-dawn Linux remount before a high-tech installation debuts; student volunteers picking people up at the airport; local Japanese translators; video editing and stage rigging; Burning Man regulars yakking about embedded systems programming with rich art ladies over cheese and Ritz crackers; confused Redevelopment Agency bigwigs scratching their heads at DJ Spooky shows; downtown homeless people staring at the video installations in empty storefronts; local architects collaborating with YouTube hackers; the families and kids who came to the SubZERO street festival—as well as everything else that 01SJ has already exploded into just during its first two iterations, you get the impression that, yeah, this really could be the Silicon Valley version of the Venice Biennale, something that people from all over the world might actually start putting on their calendars.

The location of the new office is especially significant, so allow me to build my own world here: St. James Square was the central town square of San Jose 100 years ago. This is the reason for all the historic buildings still surrounding the park. The ZER01 headquarters is now sandwiched right in-between two of these structures—the old Eagles Hall front portico just to the south and the First Unitarian Church on the other side.

The Eagles Hall was originally the location for the San Jose Scottish Rite Temple, built in 1900. The Masons eventually moved down the block and built the ornate three-story neoclassical building that now houses the San Jose Athletic Club and Frank Shamrock’s mixed martial arts studio, with the Order of Eagles later moving into the first building. All that remains of this original first building are the front Greek pillars and portico. The rest is an office complex. To the north of ZER01 sits the First Unitarian Church, built in 1891. Other historic buildings surrounding the park include the Gothic Trinity Episcopal Church at Second and St. John streets, Letcher’s Garage (later the Oasis Nightclub) and the long-abandoned First Church of Christ Scientist right next door.

So it all falls into place. You have the vision of ZER01—to be a catalyst and platform for presenting some of the world’s most innovative artists while transforming San Jose/Silicon Valley into a global epicenter for the intersection of art, technology and digital culture—with its offices now situated right smack in one of the city’s oldest historical neighborhoods—San Jose’s past, present and future all in one place.


  1. Let’s hope that it keeps up the good work and doesn’t fall into the local arts/political camp and waters itself or dumb itself down to be the next downtown arts disaster.

  2. Sure would be wonderful if San Jose could offer reasonably priced accommodations for the struggling artists wishing to visit San Jose and Silicon Valley’s ZERO1 arts scene.

    The tenth largest US city has not a single “youth hostel”.  Inexpensive accommodations are all taken by foreclosed former homeowners and service workers.  The only accommodations available are expensive business hotels. 

    I’ve posted this shortcoming numerous times on this blog.  Kathleen was one of the few responding.  JMO insisted he stayed at European hostels in his youth.  I don’t expect him to stay at hostels, but only to help get one opened in San Jose.

    Right now ZERO young international tourists get off the Greyhound in San Jose,  they all continue to Santa Cruz or SF because theres no affordable hostel in the Valley.  Harldly any know that San Jose is in Silicon Valley.
    The SJ Hostel would be the central point to get international tourism off the ground.

      Right now those driving stay along the Coast, even if I suggest that 280 North is the world’s most beautiful freeway.

      Doesn’t anyone in this town have vision what a large urban hostel would provide for young well educated international tourists, families, school groups, scouts, bicyclists, athletic teams, company trainees from overseas, etc.??  We’re not talking about putting up local homeless street bums.  Even if they get in with an out-of-town ID, they can only stay three nights, longer only if there’s space, one night at a time.

    If this hostel is sponsered by one or more local hi-tech companies such as Apple, HP, Intel, Adobe, Cisco, Google, eBay, for marketing collaboration, then it could become the geekiest nerdiest hostel that would attract every computer nut from around the world. This hostel would offer the newest toys for guests to try out.
      Every visitor could check out an ipod or iphone with all bus, train, plane schedules, every restaurant, shopping, attractions, GPS, maps, music, already preloaded to make visiting Santa Clara County a great experience. 

    Every bunk bed has a 3D movie screen, high speed internet and wifi, free phone calls, language translation, interactive what to do tomorrow sites, perhaps even Google food.

    The hostel would be the starting point for sponsoring company’s plant tours with stops at Fry’s, Halted or Weird Stuff.

      For less than $30 for a dorm bunk bed, about $70 for a private room, with kitchen access (year round)it’ll be the least expensive place to stay.  If we do it right, make it large enough then then this Hostel will be the best known San Jose spot around the world and the most successful. 

    Without a clean friendly safe and affordable hostel San Jose is truly a ZERO1.


  3. What is the deal with the “long-abandoned First Church of Christ Scientist” anyway?  It’s been that way since I moved here in the early 90s, and it is a huge eyesore.  It must be on a historic register since it was built in 1915, but who owns that ugly block?

    It sure would be nice to see that building restored and some matching buildings go up around it, to replace the ugly parking lot and the other hideous building on 1st and St James next to the old church.

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