Curving entertainment pavilion takes shape in downtown San Jose

SAN JOSE — A curving entertainment pavilion has begun to take shape in downtown San Jose, an endeavor that could usher in a more lively vibe to the urban core of the Bay Area’s largest city.

Work on the Serpentine Pavilion, a traveling events center made of fiberglass frames, was under way this week on the Valley Title lot along South First Street near West San Carlos Street, across from the California Theater.

The pavilion is poised to become a hub of culture, arts, music, theater, fashion, movies, speakers and other entertainment on a key lot in downtown’s SoFA district, according to a proposal submitted by developer Westbank, which owns the site where the exhibition will occur.

“It’s wonderful to see a world-class art installation coming to downtown,” said Ted McMahon, chief investment officer with Bayview Development, one of the most active real estate developers in downtown San Jose.

Evening view of Serpentine Pavilion in London’s Kensington Gardens. // Bjarke Ingels Group

Westbank is eyeing a number of potential uses for the Serpentine Pavilion, crafted by architectural and design firm Bjarke Ingels Group. The first activities are expected to begin within the next few weeks.

“The exhibition would provide approximately 308 individual events including but not limited to artist talks, a speaker series, courses and workshops, private events, public readings, dance, music, and theatrical performances, fashion shows, movie screenings, multi-media events, and design charrettes,” a San Jose city staff report said.

The site where the Serpentine Pavilion will sprout is on property owned by an alliance of Canada-based Westbank and San Jose-based Urban Community, a Bay Area developer.

The exhibit could remain in San Jose until April 2022.

“San Jose has always been extremely supportive of public arts and new ways of looking at things,” said Bob Staedler, principal executive with Silicon Valley Synergy, a land-use consultancy. “This sort of venue is more of what San Jose wants.”

Serpentine Pavilion, a curving entertainment site, is partially constructed at 300 S. First St. in downtown San Jose. // (George Avalos / Bay Area News Group)

The pavilion is made up of about 1,800 fiberglass frames that are stacked and arranged to form a curving passage like a cave.

The Serpentine Pavilion has become an international traveling exhibition with stops that have included London’s Kensington Gardens and Toronto. Westbank came up with the idea of sending the pavilion on a global tour. The structure can be assembled and then taken apart to enable its tours.

Serpentine Pavilion, elevated view, in Kensington Gardens complex in London. Serpentine Gallery is visible in the lower right. // Bjarke Ingels Group

City officials and Westbank executives believe the Serpentine Pavilion will be the focal point of an exhibition that can activate the SoFA district by providing free programs for the public as well as private events.

“It’s the kind of vibe we need,” McMahon said.

Construction activity is underway for the Serpentine Pavilion, a temporary hub for entertainment at 300 S. First St. in downtown San Jose. // (George Avalos / Bay Area News Group)




Curving entertainment pavilion takes shape in downtown San Jose

Christin Hakim

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