Dispatches from the Fortress of Eden

Park Avenue, Adobe Systems Inc., via Google Streetview
It's another sunny day in downtown San Jose, just like everyday is on Google Streetview.  The fog of San Francisco never seems to get close.  It's just an average day like this that two of DEMILIT's members, myself and Bryan Finoki, decide to have a look around.

We're getting ready for an installation at the SJ01 San Jose Biennale next month.  Our group (also including Javier Arbona) is a loose one based upon a collective gravitation toward military landscapes.  Each of us will define differently what a 'military landscape' is, what our methods for exploring them are, and what sorts of projects we envision out of them.  But the fact of the matter is we're hooked on 'em, and they don't seem to be going away any time soon.

Details will follow on what DEMILIT is up to, who is coming to speak, and the installations that we are preparing for SJ01  One thing we'd like to get people involved with is a guided tour of the militarization of downtown San Jose.  So Bryan and I made an adventure out of our first practice run.

It was our first visit as pedestrians in downtown San Jose.  We had little idea what, if anything, we would find.  I anticipated large stretches of boring, smooth, generic downtown urban space.  We definitely saw some of that.  In these sorts of mundane places, however, the clues for how the urban environment is shaped by invisible sources of power are best detected.  What is it that makes us feel safe in a city?  Is this security based on anything real, or do we depend upon invisible factors and codes that buttress our corporate-consumer culture?

San Jose City Hall, Richard Meier, completed in 2005
Bryan and I spotted the City Hall and decided to linger in the large plaza.  Bollards of many typologies (flagpoles, rocks, fountains, and our favorite--poles spouting mist (wanna-be San Francisco fog?) ) buffer the plaza from Santa Clara St.  The space definitely has some military-urbanist planning codes informing the proportions, the standoff distances, etc.  I'll leave that for a future post to delve into.

We also walked the perimeter of Adobe's corporate park, and we discussed some of its features.  Lacking the glorious allusions to the elegant geometries of traditional fortresses (epaulette, ravelin, Priest's Cap, bastions with ciruclar flanks, etc), we are left with the viewing cones of surveillance cameras and blank walls of ground-floor mechanical rooms to understand its fortress nature.  Listen:

Bryan and I then traversed the innocuous San Jose landscape to an office tower at 225 W. Santa Clara Ave.  At an elusive Suite 1600, one can find the offices of Jeppesen, a Boeing subsidiary which allegedly assisted with the trip planning of CIA rendition flights.  I'll leave it to Bryan to fill in details at another time.  For now, we just want to knock on their door.  You know, we're wondering if they are hiring.  Listen:

That's it for now.  There is a lot more work to be done in order to understand the place of San Jose in the larger Bay Area fortification.  We'll also be looking at the former blimp hangars at Moffett Field and the  Mission Santa Clara de Asís as components of this military landscape.  San Jose, from fruit orchards to pyramids of silicon, is not as obvious as the military landscapes of Alameda, Richmond, and the Presidio, but it is our task to demonstrate how it is a military landscape and through this task, we may come to learn more about our own assumptions and ways of looking at these landscapes.