There are many things to admire about the Miro Towers apartments, San Jose’s newest and tallest high-rise building project that occupies the north side of East Santa Clara Street between Fourth and Fifth streets.
We begin with the tongue in cheek project name that pays fond, absurdist tribute to Barcelona-born Catalan surrealist artist Joan Miro. One connection between the building and its honoree is the developers like art and music, and decided to support them tangibly, in part by providing curated gallery space and sound-dampened music practice rooms.
At 28 stories and a 298-foot height, Miro has been San Jose’s most visually convincing high-rise since it was topped out in 2020—nearby airport flight patterns inhibit true skyscrapers.
Miro is the tallest building in Silicon Valley, and the tallest between San Francisco and Los Angeles. But there’s a catch—these superlatives are time-sensitive, with a two-foot taller project rising at the other end of downtown, so those bragging rights will soon turn into a pumpkin. Fortunately, the towers will survive well past midnight.
Any useful evaluation of Miro should be weighted heavily on its architectural and urbanistic features rather than on height alone.
As the region’s highest built vantage point, Miro is poised to deliver spectacular views. It doesn’t disappoint in that respect, with 360-degree perimeter rooftop decks, beefy cantilevers, obstruction-free glass parapets, windows and balconies all bring great light and lightness to Miro.
Views are also exceptional from within the apartments thanks to more than 300 glass-fronted balconies and floor-to-ceiling window walls. One apartment stack has an unduplicated close-up view of the City Hall tower.
These visual devices create an uncanny sense of floating and serenity, especially when seen from the higher floors. Some other downtown high-rises produce similar perceptions, but to a lesser degree.
Urban design, density and location
Miro’s development team took full advantage of the urban design cachet provided by big city vistas, as well as city-strengthening tools inherent in the project location and its intensified human presence.
It’s across the street from City Hall, and fronts on East Santa Clara Street, the spine of the region’s bus transportation network. Its edge-of-downtown location and permissive zoning combined to produce a plan that accommodated 444 apartments per acre—630 units on a 1.42-acre site. In terms of human occupancy, the towers could house about 650 tenants per acre when full. If these numbers seem high, that’s because they are.
Additionally, San Jose State University, a magnet for 40,000 students, faculty and staff, is a block away. It’s also not far from the long-awaited arrivals of high-speed rail and the BART extension. Not bad for a town that’s often derided as one big suburb.
These raw numbers are impressive per se; it will be interesting to see how downtown adapts to Miro Towers and similar speculative real estate ventures, and vice versa. It will also be interesting to see whether the current and projected densification of central San Jose will make smart development practices more likely to occur, or instead contribute to further vehicular congestion.
One big move, and many small ones
Steinberg Hart’s first big design decision was simple: split its allowable building envelope of a million square feet in half, creating two slim glass towers. Typical downtown practice has been to make even the tallest buildings wider than their height, thereby producing the city’s famous crew-cut skyline.
The second decision was complex: use the 324 glazed tower balconies as primary design elements whose size and shape vary widely, but still follow what Steinberg Hart design architect Edmund Rivera calls “a systematic approach.” These do not project outward like conventional balconies, but are recessed in a pattern of structured complexity, with slightly shifted grids for the balconies and window walls.
Similarly, the exterior form and orientation of the tower floor plans, which appear identical and squared off, actually feature deliberate geometrical irregularities. These subtly unconventional design elements deserve an article of their own, for they are the architectural heart of Miro Towers, giving them their spirit and identity.
John Pastier is a trained architect who was the Los Angeles Times’ first architecture critic. He has been writing about buildings and cities since 1965, and has taught at UCLA, UC Berkeley, UT Austin and McGill. He published the first monograph on architect Cesar Pelli in 1980.
Can you help us make a difference?
Nonprofit news gives power to people, but power doesn’t come for free. If you value San José Spotlight’s reporting, please consider a tax-deductible donation today so we can continue doing the local reporting that matters to you.
Join our mailing list to receive the latest news and updates from our team.
We’re changing the face of journalism by providing an innovative model for delivering independent news to the nation’s 10th largest city.
Miro should have paid for this ad space.
250 unhoused people die on the streets each year in Santa Clara County. The last thing this city needs is market rate housing, which San Jose is at 72% of its building goals . What San Jose does NEED, is the ELI/VLI (Extremely/Very Low Income) housing, the city is at 7% of its building goals. SEVEN percent!
The way to prevent homelessness is to keep people housed, to provide more affordable housing. One of the ways to get people off the streets is to provide more housing, not shelter options, for them to transition to.
Every Miro the city concentrates on and fetes as the latest, greatest tower of market rate/luxury housing, is a ration of death sentences for people who didn’t see low income built and died on the streets.
It’s fitting Miro is across from city hall, it mirrors their priorities. They can look at each other from their lofty towers and ignore all the dead and dying on the streets below.
A student and non-H1-B tech worker high-rise near campus and kitty-corner to the Brasilia building, a.k.a. City Hall, is fitting for the city, ideal for students who want to be interns a mile away in the western zone, or tech works there who want a bit of space away from work when done, or who are furthering their education at San Jose State, too.
The way to prevent homelessness is to help the homeless get some job skills and MOVE out of the Bay Area.
You need to accept the fact that poor people need to be housed but they don’t have the right to be housed anywhere they want.
Sorry but the Bay Area is just way too expensive and if you are not in tech then from a financial point of view you probably shouldn’t be here.
Help the homeless out by RELOCATION to other parts of the country. Try relocating some to rural places that still have infrastructure and housing is quite affordable. Try less than $100K to own a house. Even less if rehab work is needed.
If you are not making $150K a year then economically you shouldn’t be here. That may not be the way it should be but those are the facts of life.
The City of San Jose pays many of its hardworking employees less than 150k while requiring them to report to work at City Hall and other facilities, so you’d lose most of them under your proposal.
This building is such an asset to Downtown and hopefully representative of the architectural excellence we will see in other projects coming soon.
One other comment is that at certain times of the year and times of the day this building reflects sunlight to the other side of the street and casts a yellowish hue over City Hall and the Dome. It really warms and brightens the other side of the street.
I wonder if the architects ever thought of how their creation might have this bonus effect.
Nice addition too, SJI. Glad to see an architecture critic added to the scene. There are plenty of projects, good and bad, to review.
The reflected heat is no bonus in the summer. Walk past the Gold Building in the summer and it’s 10-12 degrees hotter outside it than the already hot air. It also raises the energy cost to cool that part of the 60 S. Market building facing it across the street.
The angles and offsetting in the build look tacky.
“It’s across the street from City Hall,”
City Hall is not between 4th and 5th Streets.
“and fronts on East Santa Clara Street, the spine of the region’s bus transportation network.
East Santa Clara Street is the main thoroughfare east of downtown itself, important for everyone, not important merely as a bus route.
“Its edge-of-downtown location and permissive zoning combined to produce a plan that accommodated 444 apartments per acre—630 units on a 1.42-acre site. In terms of human occupancy, the towers could house about 650 tenants per acre when full. If these numbers seem high, that’s because they are.”
Do you mean “permissive zoning”? It could be built nearly anywhere.
“Additionally, San Jose State University, a magnet for 40,000 students, faculty and staff, is a block away. It’s also not far from the long-awaited arrivals of high-speed rail and the BART extension.”
Never mind the “not far” marketing nonsense, few to none willing to walk one mile to Diridon Station from the location in question; they’d ride a bike or drive instead, normally, or even take BART if that trip were heavily subsidized. Nobody but the small-city complex suffers care about high-speed rail’s redirection through San Jose, and those who understand transportation have always disapproved of it. With BART it will take some good luck in addition to other things to get the job finished, like more money from people who may or will never ride BART there, or anywhere.
That’s where BART gets interesting in another way. Where is the BART station to serve San Jose State University, somewhere from City Hall to 10th-11th Streets, or even 13th, in place of the smaller ventilation site that is planned instead? Apparently starting up the Peninsula by going to Santa Clara and duplicating Caltrain is more important than a place where a station should be, that would serve 40,000 students plus faculty and staff, even admins potentially. Think about that from one’s balcony or while on the roof deck.
Bravo and well said. If you are classy enough to live in this complex I think the last thing they would want to look at are those city hall slime bags. Get with reality.
Just more babble from the spotlight. Lack of any understanding on how a democracy works From both the news and the “lawyers at city hall” To foster a democracy you MUST foster a “middle class” Is that happening here? To foster a middle class you have to promote home OWNERSHIP. We know that isn’t happening. So the conclusion is these NEO liberal morons are actually fascists. Media is the 4th check on government. What are you doing to promote democracy with glossy “advertisements” like this? Nothing. Shut this bobble head bs down.
Media as a check on government began fading at least 25 years ago. It collapsed with the Obama Administration, and is now the mouthpiece for DC politicos and the democrat elites. MSM along with the social media titans censor all dissent. There was a four year period when the media’s almost sole purpose was to criticize Trump, and suppress his achievements, like mideast peace accords, low unemployment, slashing of federal government interference in local affairs, building a wall to keep out the horde of marginally employable folks, who now enter the US unfettered at the rate of over 2 million per year. 81 million votes for Biden, who brought us rampant inflation, claims to have created millions of new jobs when what really happened is that a lot but not all of jobs. Media is no longer a check on government. It is its PR flak. that went away came back. They aren’t new jobs. The media have purposely abdicated the role as a check on government.
What is this except a High Mirror?
What thought went into these monstrosities?
Every City in the world has Glass and Aluminum.
This article is just a attempt to fool people into accepting this extra cheap way of Building for for the future.
Shameful and Sad that there was zero thought put into this plate of glass.
People are so sheepful, if an Architectural Smart Guy says it’s pretty, they believe that guy.
I will be fighting that Plastic type of Architectural Designs in the East Valley where we strive to hold onto the Flavor of our Heritage and Culture.
We have an Identy and will not be moved to turn away from it.
In Community Spirit, Danny Garza
He calls the view of the city hall tower a plus, but left out the view of adjacent R2D2.
There goes the griping again! This type of myopic, knee jerk faux compassion, is why San Jose is the somewhat boring place it is. Yes, we need homelessness to be addressed. It shouldn’t keep us from having gorgeous architecture.
Anyone who screams for an affordability mandate on any new housing should first sign on a piece of paper that they’ll sell their home at the price they bought it at plus inflation.
Else this is one more NIMBY tactic to block housing and we all know it.
I stood in the sidewalk in front of those glass monsters and did not like it when I imagined what could and would happen in the case of a impending earthquake… It’s gonna happen ! I don’t think I’m wrong in saying that there will most likely be 6 feet of razor-like glass for a quarter square mile of every side of that location…. I really hope I’m wrong but it truly looks like a accident waiting to happen…
Thank you Spotlight for including a thoughtful and well informed architectural review on this Miro project as it comes to completion. More such contributions on projects throughout San Jose would be appreciated.
Your email address will not be published.
Save my name, email, and website in this browser for the next time I comment.
We’re changing the face of journalism by providing an innovative model for delivering independent news to the nation’s 10th largest city.
Now in the App Store and Google Play
San José residents deserve a trusted source for unbiased, independent political news. And we’re here to provide it.
San José Spotlight is the city’s first nonprofit, community-supported digital news organization. We’re changing the face of journalism by providing an innovative model for delivering reliable, truthful news to the nation’s 10th largest city. We’re partnering with you – the readers – to make it happen. This is your newsroom.
San José Spotlight is a project of the San José News Bureau, a 501(c)(3) charitable organization | Tax ID: 82-5355128. | All donations are tax-deductible
Subscribe to our daily newsletter—it's FREE!
Thanks, I’m not interested or already a subscriber