Stitching together San Jose:
Louis Pellier Park opens to the public
The first of three new SWA-designed parks in Northern California’s largest city celebrates the plum tree and agricultural origins of Silicon Valley
October 18th, 2023 — Today, SWA and partners joined the City of San José to celebrate the opening of Louis Pellier Park—the first of three new urban parks, along with North San Pedro Park and Bassett Park, intended to enhance health, connectivity, and civic life in the city’s growing downtown.
Before Silicon Valley was a global center for technology and innovation, it was an agricultural hub for California and the heart of a multimillion-dollar prune industry. Louis Pellier, a French immigrant, introduced the prune to Santa Clara Valley from his native France in 1856 and established a nursery, dubbed “City Gardens,” at the site of the current park, which is now marked as a California Historic Landmark. Inspired by Pellier’s signature Petit d’Agen plum trees and their iconic status in the state’s history, the park’s design was developed by SWA in collaboration with Seattle-based artist Norie Sato with extensive public input. Seen from above, Pellier Park is designed in the shape of a plum, with the central “pit” delineating a common gathering space and grove, circulation paths and seating forming the “flesh,” tree-lined berms as the “leaves” buffering the park from exposure to traffic noise and pollution, and a northward paseo of flowering trees as the “stem.”
“Pellier Park is a love letter to the Santa Clara Valley and a much-needed green space for North San Pedro as it rapidly grows,” said Daniel Affleck, Associate Principal at SWA and design lead for the project. “It’s a playful design, one intended to educate and delight—and while the other two parks to come play different roles, that’s a shared trait across all three.”
Informed by a series of community meetings, the park’s design incorporates layers of palms and shade trees along the periphery, with drifts of flowering trees running through the center. The primary entry point on Terraine and West St. James Streets is anchored by an entry court with signage and seating areas, drawing visitors through the main paseo, past a pair of sloped lawns and toward a secondary entrance at Devine Street. In the evening, custom lighting features inspired by the grafting process of prune clippings onto rootstock fill the grove with a soft, purple glow. A “storytelling wall” along the North edge of the park tells the tale of the Pellier family, the region’s agricultural history and memories shared by the community..
Of the three parks, Pellier Park is focused on relaxation and culture, with North San Pedro Park focused on community gathering and pop-up events and Bassett Park focused on fitness and play. The two other parks are anticipated to enter construction in early 2024.