MEMORIAL TO THE VICTIMS OF THE 1871 CHINESE MASSACRE
Los Angeles, California
competition entry, 2022
To honor the lives violently taken, acknowledge one of the most horrific events in city’s history, to reconcile with that past, to spread knowledge about a long hidden tragedy, serve as a public commemoration site and a warning against senseless violence for the future the memorial needs to be instantly and universally recognizable, because it has a purpose for people of different backgrounds, it needs to surpass current fashions that will be of no use tomorrow, but be timeless memorial, a place for universal experience and intimate connection.
Victims’ remains were long ago transferred from L.A. cemetery to their homeland, massacre was forgotten. To again take part in this diverse community, in their city that now pays respect and acknowledge its history, we take the soil from different parts of China and put it in 18 blocks of polished red Chinese granite, each in casket-like proportions. This creates real physical connection and meaningfully engages the community in this process. To reject silence we place blocks one on top of the other, visible from a distance, reaching towards the sky. Consequently the memorial takes the shape of a high stele that is universally recognizable but especially so in Chinese culture. Steles are found at nearly every significant mountain and historical site in China. Stele will be carved with carefully selected and beautifully designed letters in Chinese and English and enhanced with gold. Letters could cover part or whole of the surface. Use of granite guarantees timelessness and endurance. Stone’s sheer weight is strongly felt around the site as one is reflecting the gravity of the tragedy on the polished surface that shows our changing and yet undefined present mirroring on the heavy granite – past set in stone. Strong red color of hard and sharp granite symbolizes violent way of lives lost and it is also recognizable color of the Chinese culture. This strong unchanging presence is enhanced with the contrast of embracing emptiness of surrounding space created by encircling trees, changing in seasons.
Memorial creates serious but uplifting spatial and emotional experience fitting for the magnitude of the event with incorporating surroundings by taking advantage of the Primary site 2. Located in the center it meaningfully connects sites of the tragedy with the museum. Memorial is a pause in the everyday life of the city, an invitation of engagement, enrichment of the community with disruption that now needs to be recognized and then becomes important part of the city. As a beacon it connects the city to its history – that is learned in the museum building facing the memorial. Memorial is not the museum, loaded with every information, but represents the essence, a real physical manifestation of the specific tragic event and the victims. Memorial with surrounding will be lit at night to shine in the dark. Area will be enhanced with new paving that could also include road and sidewalks.
Memorial is the center point, it acts as a physical and historical exclamation mark; it is prominently visible, it draws attention to the tragedy and with its timeless monumental design it is also easily memorable. Surrounding becomes involved in the experience. Memorial points through its presence to wider understanding of the tragedy with connections to the Secondary Sites. Each of the secondary sites will have a slab of red polished granite with text description, so that all sites are specific, but inter-connected in one experience. Slab will be equipped with digital sign, linking sites together in a walking tour, with possible audio and VR experience. Where possible landscaping that reacts to the specific site will be created.