An Exception to the Rule, Part 2

If a picture is worth a thousand words, then I’ll be way over the limit for what’s considered good blog length (250-300 words) with this posting.  But since I spent the last three days in bed with a fever, this is the best I can do for this week—probably just as well since pictures are better than words when it comes to architectural discussions. 

When Richard Meier submitted his first designs for the new San Jose city hall, they were all interesting and classically Meier, but none of them were obviously civic.  In other words, nothing looked like a city hall.  So Meier and his colleagues did some research and identified some tradition elements of city halls:  domes, clock towers, plazas, etc.

They identified the Reichstag’s dome as something worth emulating.  We suggested the Vancouver Public Library.  Both served as an inspiration for Meier’s design, particularly the dome and the curved wall.

The New San Jose City Hall: The Reichstag: The Vancouver Public Library:


Like all major civic projects, the Reichstag and the Vancouver Public Library had their share of controversy, detractors, and supporters.  But they, unlike us, didn’t have a local blog with public commentary to help put it all into perspective.


  1. I won’t be too harsh and I hope you’re feeling better. Now, I like the graphics but I want to know about the original design v. the current one: post some pictures on the original design if you cant write objectively about it. Let us decide in other words: “but none of them were obviously civic.”

  2. Architecture should promote a lasting and timeless sense of good taste.  It should not be trendy.  Meier has therefore succeeded.  However, the building he has designed is worthy of far more than the kind and quality of business that will be conducted within, which is to suggest that a tent would have sufficed to house the circus that has been promoted by our mayor and council.

  3. I really believe that the new city hall will generate curiousity after it opens.  Is downtown ready to seize the opportunities this will bring?

  4. I really believe that the new city hall will generate TRAFFIC after it opens.  Is downtown ready to seize the opportunities this will bring? NO. Blame RDA and mayor and council. People will not want live around or anywhere near CH.

  5. Believe it or not, we have a ton of nitwits on a blog called Spartan Thunder who are boycotting San Jose because it is creating an arch for Cesar Chavez.  I think the fact that Chavez Arch will truly be a rich cultural addition to San Jose. that some design issues about city hall will be mitigated.

  6. Kassing is the cause. People don’t trust him, espeically students. He’s sells out the university for his own legacy. He’s a lone wolf.
    Meanwhile, the students of SJSU will suffer as their educational / university quaility and experience gets watered down.

  7. There is a rule in architecture: Form follows function.
    So what does this FORM say about the FUNCTION of local government? Or is the building an exception to the rule?

  8. Was Cesar Chaves active in Santa Clara valley when it was agricultural?  Did he make a positive contribution to this area and those that lived here?

    If not, then why the need to name everything that’s nailed down after him?

  9. Here goes another story: When CC went to farms, near the Gilroy area, he pleaded for farm worker rights to the land owners. When the landowners said it would cost too much and put them out of business, CC protested. The land owners simply plowed their crops under until next season. This continued for many seasons. Many people were out of work for a long time. Many farms in this area have gone under or sold out to developers.

  10. Richard, I believe the question and Insides response were valid – if you don’t have anything of value to add, then kindly abstain.  Regards.

  11. While imitation is the surest form of flattery; we have made continuous mistakes (downtown) by imitating everything. 

    The plans that have come and gone downtown have always been imitations from some other place.  When it comes to downtown local imagination, creativity and originality is shunned by our mayor and the council.  This is why we have so much potential as a downtown; but no sense of place and “soul”.

    But at least we get this ugly expensive mess of a city hall!  It will be worth every penny!

  12. What is interesting is that the new city hall, while progressive, very unique, and worthy of architectural praise, does create a tremendous impact on the historically eligible homes in the immediate area.  It is worthy of note that San Jose moved several very key homes into a historically significant neighborhood, which was a good mitigation.

    By the way, another testament to the Gonzales sports dynasty, the Silicon Valley Classic, our local bowl game is likely to be decertified due to low attenandance and failed efforts of San Jose’s city leadership to drum uo support.  Gonzales sport efforts now at D-

  13. Once again, Rich read the abridged version of history, sort of like his abridged version of Santa Clara developments that he edited the roles out not wanting to send people sacks of pennies.  Southern racists kept plantations going using the principle of usury, which meant that the freedman simply worked off debts that never got paid.  Indeed, Florida tomato growers still keep many people in virtual slavery by making them work off debts that have been set for housing, food, etc.  California farmworkers have similar problems even today.

  14. Mike,

    Understand the concept, we can all make money if we have cheap or free labor.  That’s why Corporations are outsourcing.

    That doesn’t make it right nor does it make long term economic sense.  Plowing your fields under because you have to pay farm workers is bogus.

    If you look at the substandard conditions farmworkers used to be forced to work under, you’ll understand why Cesar Chavez’s birthday is a holiday.

    Unions get a bad rap on this board, but most people wouldn’t be able the afford the shack they live in if it were not for the labor movement and people like Cesar Chavez.

    Union membership is on the decline, mostly because they have been successful in making workers lives better.  But as their numbers begin to go down, Corporate greed begins to increase.

    The Unions didn’t bilk Enron shareholders, or MCI or WorldCom—they didn’t exaggerate and take advantage of the energy crisis in California, they don’t support outsourcing jobs to for cheap labor, they don’t discriminate against their employees like Walmart.  They did provide the impetus for healthcare for all of the children in Santa Clara County.  They did work for prevailing wage laws that allow people in the trades not only to build the home, but afford it as well. 

    The Unions brought binding Arbitration to our safety workers so they would never go on strike.  They support probusiness efforts like Bart to San Jose, reasonable land-use policies, and when they’ve opposed business it was usually on principled grounds, with an eye to making the community better.

    So I am offended when someone belittles the efforts of Cesar Chavez.  It shows a tremendous lack of education in my opinion.

  15. First in basic Logic 101 you are mixing apples and oranges. Second, you are trying to paint only one side of the story. If you can, show both sides—objectively. Thirdly, attacking your opponents shows your intelligence and weakens you credibility. I could go on but I’ve said enough.

  16. Hey, you are out of order:

    . . .especially since you refuse to identify yourself.

    If you want objectivity read the Merc.

    I am rarely take both sides of an issue, so I don’t feel the need to explain the other side.

    I don’t remember attacking anybody, but if I did, I’m sure it was for good reason.

  17. The efforts of Cesar Chavez are immense to the dignity of people around the world.

    The efforts of someone that wants to lecture everyone can be counted in sacks of pennies.

  18. I like how off-topic this has become… I though this was supposed to be about the new Civic Center, not a Cesar Chavez dispute, save that for your personal e-mails, or another post for that matter.