The city of Los Angeles has selected six finalists for the competition to design a new memorial dedicated to the victims of the 1871 Chinese Massacre. In one of the darkest chapters in the city’s history, on 21 October 24, roughly ten percent of the city’s Chinese population at the time, at least 18 residents, were murdered by a mob of rioters. The memorial seeks to raise public awareness of the 1871 racially motivated mass killing while simultaneously addressing contemporary concerns regarding race, intolerance, and violence. The memorial was first announced in April 2021, and it is set to be built near the site of the massacre and the Chinese American Museum.
We recognize that facing injustices that occurred in our city’s history is not easy, yet it is important to remind future generations of the lessons embodied in the tragic Chinese Massacre of 1871. When the finished work is unveiled, we look forward to joining together in reflection and healing.” Michael Truong, executive director of Los Angeles’s Chinese American Museum.
Following a request for ideas initiated by the Los Angeles Department of Cultural Affairs in August 2022, 176 proposals were submitted, and six finalists were selected by an evaluation panel. The six finalists are:
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Fung + Blatt Architects
Los Angeles, CA
The proposal is focused on enhancing the gestural experiences of raising and lowering one’s head and the feelings they elicit. A split boulder with an infinity mirror box encased in its center aims to encourage passers-by to lower their heads as a humble reflection of past wrongs. The pinewood shaft echoes the depth of the Chinese American roots in this land, while the sea of black ingot-shaped paver bricks alludes to the multitude of immigrant stories untold and to the “streets paved with gold” myth that continues to beckon many.
Sze Tsung Nicolás Leong and Judy Chui-Hua Chung
Artist/Writer Collaboration Team, Los Angeles, CA
The project looks at a broader picture of the Chinese American experience in Los Angeles, documenting the many injustices suffered by this community. A sea of petrified trunks symbolizes the victims of the massacre. Circles etched in the pavement recreate the timeline of the events, all converging to a “young ‘Silvery Tree,’ a symbol of growth and hope in a grove of trunks. Roots, stumps, trees, histories, and memories.”
Artists Anna Sew Hoy and Zhu Jia and Formation Association
Artists/Architect Collaboration, Los Angeles, CA
A Memorial Colonnade comprised of vertical Stelae frames the site of Calle de Los Negros and portions of historic Chinatown. “At eye level, the Memorial Stelae demonstrate a chronology of the events regarding the night of the 1871 Chinese Massacre. A Flying Chord encircles the sky above with a dual role: Its staggering forms articulate the turbulence overtaking the Chinese community on a historic ‘night of terrors,’ while its perimeter frames redemptive new sites of commemoration, festivals, and activism, energizing the Chinese American Museum as an urban proscenium - a backdrop for future Angelenos inhabiting a next Los Angeles.”
Frederick Fisher and Partners David Ross, Takashige Ikawa, and Iustina Nicolae + Artist Candice Lin
Architect/Artist Collaboration, Los Angeles, CA
The team’s proposal is centered around a monolith of black stone carved in bas relief by Los Angeles artist Candace Lin. Influenced by her research into Chinese symbols, cartography, and the history of 19th and 20th-century Chinese immigration, Lin will create an image of the spirit world. She draws upon Toaist paintings of the underworld and symbols of significance to the Chinese community. The monument invites visitors to look, touch and make ink rubbings from these carved images. Small bronze fragments representing the victims are displaced around the monolith. They are positioned to that on the day of October 24th, the day of the tragic events, the sun’s rays will reflect light off the polished bronze, bouncing the light onto the center of the memorial stone.
Figure x J. Jih Architecture Collective, led by James Leng and Jennifer Ly in collaboration with J. Roc Jih
San Francisco, CA
The proposal centers around Penjing, a Chinese art form, and ancestor to Bonsai, in which the garden becomes a microcosm. Its focus lies on the visual and the mental gaze toward introspection. The monument is envisioned as a living sculpture, embodying a cultural attitude toward sculptures as something existing between object and landscape. Each Penjing offers ritualized care to unassuming places, with the microcosmic interior mirroring the communities who design and sustain it. In doing so, it aims to reflect the stories of resilience that many Chinese immigrants trace in the building of their communities.
Sonam Lhamo, Jiawei Yao, Yiying Tang
Architectural Team, Seattle, WA
A red brick and wood pavilion with a folding roof invites passers-by to slow down and become immersed in the history of the space. The pillars supporting the roof are engraved with the names of the victims of the 1871 Chinese Massace.