Birthplace of the Silicon Valley

Submitted by Mary White

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Client: Merlone Geier Partners

Location: Mountain View, CA, United States

Completion date: 2018

Artwork budget: $175,000

Project Team

Artist

Vickie Jo Sowell

Client

Kristin Strahl

Merlone Geier Partners

Artist

Mary White

Overview

“The Birthplace of the Silicon Valley” project includes three transistor and diode sculptures in front of the newly constructed tech complex at 391 San Antonio Road in Mountain View, CA. The artwork commemorates the pioneering 1950s silicone devices developed at the Shockley Semiconductor Laboratory (1956–1968). The 18’ high metal and glass “devices” are representations of the early silicon transistor and diode. Plugged into the sidewalk there’s also a sculptural circuit board. One diode on view reveals it’s interior silicon components. Nearby there is a history wall and timeline that illustrates the significant semiconductor businesses that started at this address.

Goals

Merlone Geier Partnership’s goal was to mark the historical significance of the address with artwork. They held a design competition and chose artists Mary B. White and Vickie Jo Sowell to design sculptures that could visually honor the history of the place. They selected another artist to build a large silicon molecule on the inner plaza. Artists White and Sowell’s goal was to learn about the history of the silicon semiconductor and find a compelling visual form that brought back the historical period of the original manufacturing of silicon chips in California. Merlone Geier hosted several meetings with the Computer History Museum (located in Mountain View, CA), engineers, the artists, community members, architects, landscape architects, and the construction company for the building.

Process

Vickie Jo Sowell and Mary White worked collaboratively on all aspects of the idea and execution of the project. They collaborated with Kristin Strahl, the Project Manager for all of the art and signage, on all aspects of the project, including the history wall and timeline. Kristin was our main contact with Merlone Geier Partners after the initial model was approved by the committee.

Many others were involved in the process. We worked with NorCal Metal Fabrication in Oakland to design and fabricate the metal parts of the sculptures. Franklyn Berry Artifacts Engineering designed the glass installation and gaskets. Mary White fabricated all of the glass parts in her studio and installed the glass. The lighting was designed by Holly Solar, the powercoating done by Melrose Metal Finishing, and the installation was an artist team effort with the help of Devcon Construction.

Additional Information

Both Mary White and Vickie Jo Sowell should be acknowledged as the artists, while Jeanne O'Connor was our photographer.