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Dreams For A Lively, Vibrant, and Walkable Fountain Alley

Author: Nicole Guzman, Project Coordinator for Design For All

What are some of your favorite places in Downtown San José? If you didn’t immediately think of Fountain Alley, you might just add it to your list after you hear about this special project known as Design For All.

Design For All is an industrial design course spearheaded by Leslie Speer, an Associate Professor at San José State University. One of the major course objectives is to teach the students about co-design strategies.

Co-Design Strategy: a collaborative design process that involves not just the designer, but community members and other local organizations that want to tackle a problem in their neighborhood.

Giving the students an opportunity to participate in service-learning, Jason Su from San José Downtown Association comes in to help with the experience. Jason is the Project Manager for the Street Life project, which centers around enhancing public spaces in Downtown San José. One of the focus areas of the Street Life project is Fountain Alley. SJSU Design students have been given the task to create prototypes that will be added to activate this public space.

The designers will provide Fountain Alley with prototypes that fall into these categories:

  • Community Seating
  • Parklets and Downtown Stages
  • Mobile Solar Hubs and Lighting
  • Gardens, Wind Chimes, and Birdhouses

The students have the chance to create their prototypes outside of the classroom at Local Color, which is a non-profit organization that provides affordable art spaces for San José’s creative community. Local Color is adjacent to Fountain Alley, which allows the students to test out their prototypes on site.

Most of the ideas and concepts behind the prototypes originated from community members that attended our Co-Design workshop on March 1st, which was hosted at Local Color. The community priorities focused on the following design elements: accessibility, safety, sustainability, nostalgia, and adding a lot of color! The prototypes will aim to create an interactive and memorable space that is family-friendly. Additional goals the community members outlined for the students are designing prototypes that will establish an identity for Fountain Alley, and linking the design themes to the mural located in the alley titled, “Phylum of the Free” by Jeffrey Andrade Hemming.

Furthermore, we received great positive feedback from community members. These are a few quotes from the attendees and what they learned from the co-design workshop:

  • “The process of activating public space. The importance of getting together with the community and brainstorm ideas.”
  • “Collaborating with lots of people on various artistic concepts can result in a lot of creative possible endeavors! There are a ton of creative, interesting, and interactive ideas that can make “Fountain Alley” or any other location a much better place!”
  • “SJSU Students are very creative! A broad swath of the community cares about Fountain Alley”

Our Design For All project demonstrates the positive impact of encouraging community empowerment through co-design techniques, and designing public spaces that will benefit everyone visiting Downtown San José. Save the date for May 15, because you won’t want to miss the big reveal of the prototypes in Fountain Alley from 12:30-3:20 pm!**

If you have any inquiries about the Design for All project, please send an email to Nicole Guzman: or Jason Su:

**We’re also looking for volunteers to help out with our May 15 event, please contact us if you’d like to be a part of the process!


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