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Art Crosswalks Bring Life to
Downtown San Jose

by, Alli Rael, LASN




In 2014, the streets of San Jose, Calif., got a colorful upgrade. The city's Downtown Street Life Plan, designed by CMG Landscape Architecture and approved by the San Jose Downtown Association, included art crosswalks as a dynamic and quick way to bring art, color and life to downtown. All were created with Ennis-Flint's DecoMark products, part of the TrafficScapes line. These thermoplastic markings are designed to last 5-8 years. The art at the intersection of 1st and San Salvador Streets was designed by Scape Martinez (www.scapemartinez.com).




The crosswalk at the intersection of San Pedro Street at Santa Clara and St. John Streets was designed by artist Lacey Bryant (www.laceybryant.com). Her use of the California poppy reminds pedestrians that San Jose was the state's first capital. The colors and design were inspired by the existing style and color palette of the
area's historic buildings.




This crosswalk, designed by Corinne Okada Takara (www.okadadesign.com), is at Paseo de San Antonio at 3rd and 4th Streets. The Chinese knot pattern in the darker blue stripes honors the nearby Chinatown. The elements in the lighter blue can be interpreted as circuitry, a nod to Silicon Valley, or as chandeliers, such as those found in nearby entertainment venues. Takara chose the color blue to reference the Guadalupe River, which was central to early transportation and industry.




The art crosswalk surfaces are surface-applied into stamped concrete. To apply the design, adhesive is first placed on the asphalt, followed by the design. The entire piece is heated with the StreetHeat machine seen here.





In downtown San Jose, Calif., the Downtown Street Life Plan called for the improvement of connectivity, the enhancement of character and identity, and the promotion of street life. Designed by CMG Landscape Architecture and completed in February of 2014, it offered "a la carte" and location-based placemaking ideas for the city. Murals, seating areas, parklets and planters were just a few of the many suggestions offered up to create delightful, interesting and attractive streets. With approval from the San Jose Downtown Association, art crosswalks were installed to bring some color to downtown and personalization within districts.

Asphalt Impressions installed the Ennis-Flint DecoMark preformed thermoplastic markings specified by CMG Landscape Architecture. The DecoMark products, part of the company's TrafficScapes line, are engineered for durability, guidance, aesthetics and traffic calming. They are expected to last up to eight years.

In line with the goals of the Downtown Street Life Plan, the products are designed to enhance traffic safety at intersections; provide design elements to complement a complete streets community; channel pedestrians across busy areas; promote and revitalize community image; and attract new businesses and developments, all while making an artistic statement.

While several art crosswalks were installed throughout the downtown area, we focus on three: San Pedro Street, the SoFA District (South First Area), and Paseo de San Antonio. The public was included in brainstorming the value sets of the neighborhood context for the crosswalk, then an artist was hired. They met with the Office of Cultural Affairs and the Department of Transportation to ensure that the sites were suitable for art, and that they had all the relevant information to prepare a design. The artist then discussed materials with the manufacturer before designing the art for the crosswalk, which had to be approved by the community, the Office of Cultural Affairs, the DOT, the manufacturer, and the San Jose Public Art Committee.

Once all the necessary approvals were given, the contractor was hired, materials ordered, permits obtained, and the crosswalks installed. The art crosswalks are surface-applied: adhesive is placed on the asphalt, followed by the design, then the entire piece is heated with an infrared StreetHeat machine.

San Pedro Street
Artist Lacey Bryant (www.laceybryant.com) designed the crosswalks where San Pedro Street intersects Santa Clara and St. John Streets. When designing, Bryant reached out to the San Pedro Committee of business and property owners, retailers, residents, the Office of Cultural Affairs and the Department of Transportation for input. The colors and design were inspired by the existing style and color palette of historic buildings in the area. Key symbols include the California poppy, which hearkens back to San Jose's history as the state's first capitol, and the moth, which symbolizes nightlife and change.

SoFa District
The artwork in the intersection of 1st and San Salvador Streets was designed by artist Scape Martinez (www.scapemartinez.com). With input from various local organizations, the Office of Cultural Affairs and the Department of Transportation, Martinez designed a funky and dynamic abstract piece to be experienced both up close and from afar. His goal was to echo the unconventional, artistic and dynamic character of the community.

Paseo de San Antonio
Where Paseo de San Antonio intersects 3rd and 4th streets, artist Corinne Okada Takara (www.okadadesign.com) created a historically inspired crosswalk. Three main images are repeated in the design, which was created with the input of business and property owners, residents, San Jose Downtown Association staff, and representatives the Office of Cultural Affairs. The color blue is representative of the Guadalupe River, the hub of early San Jose transportation and industry. The Chinese knot pattern, in the darker blue strips, honors Chinatown and echoes the curves of public art that weaves down Paseo de San Antonio. The circuitry elements symbolize San Jose's role as the heart of Silicon Valley, and alludes to the chandeliers in downtown San Jose entertainment venues.



As seen in LASN magazine, August 2016.






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November 22, 2019, 12:57 am PDT

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