Architect shares local vision of Italian design with Rotarians

Marlene Cowan - Special to the Town Crier
Nov 1, 2017

Lina Broydo/ Special to the Town Crier
Salvatore Caruso described his efforts to create architectural beauty in Silicon Valley during the Oct. 19 Rotary Club of Los Altos meeting. Above Caruso is a projection of the proposed Volar building in San Jose.


Salvatore Caruso, Italy's honorary consul for San Jose, described his efforts to create architectural beauty in Silicon Valley at the Oct. 19 Rotary Club of Los Altos meeting. Caruso, who studied architecture in Italy, is president of Salvatore Caruso Design Corp. in Santa Clara. He cited the "creation of enduring beauty" as fundamental to Italian culture. According to Caruso, Michelangelo's "Pieta" sculpture in St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican and Italian cathedrals and aqueducts inspired two of his architectural innovations in the Bay Area.


Caruso renovated the chapel at San Quentin State Prison. Hearing an inmate say, “I never knew that anyone outside cared about us,” motivated Caruso to design a chapel that inspired inmates through its architectural beauty. To develop more peaceful relationships among prisoners, he established the Children of Abraham Peace Project, bringing together Christian, Jewish and Muslim inmates.


Caruso said that among San Quentin inmates, the recidivism rate typically ranges from 70 to 80 percent, but it drops to approximately 3 percent after participating in a religious program during incarceration.

The general public, too, will benefit from Caruso’s Italian principle of “enduring beauty.” The San Jose City Council approved Volar, an 18-story mixed-use development adjacent to Santana Row. Inspired by the Greek sculpture “Winged Victory of Samothrace,” the building will appear from side view to swirl upward, with its circular top floor offering a 365-degree-view restaurant under a glass oculus. Above the lower two floors of commercial space will rise 307 condos, topped by a public park.


During his architectural studies in Italy, Caruso recognized the enduring beauty of numerous iconic Italian structures. The Pantheon in Rome, built more than 1,800 years ago, is topped by a massive dome constructed of concrete, which was invented by the Romans. Their addition of fine ash to the concrete allowed sturdy but relatively lightweight construction of the dome. However, the Roman “science of concrete,” Caruso said, was consequently lost for 1,700 years following the Sack of Rome.


Caruso also cited the “beautiful and practical” design of arched aqueducts transporting water into Rome.


“Water transport is an issue we still struggle with,” he said.


Marlene Cowan is a member of the Rotary Club of Los Altos. For more information, visit
losaltosrotary.org.

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