The creation of the landmark is in essence,
an act of remembrance and celebration. The landmark is not intended to
recognize a singular individual, event, or era, but rather to acknowledge
many threads of history, community life, and identity; In short, to capture
and represent the ‘spirit of the community’.
Memory and how to represent the objects of
memory are crucial to the landmark design. At the heart of our work, is the
act of bringing memory into the realm of visuality, where memory enters the
arena of public memory. In doing so, we express our aspirations for the
future sustenance, and cultivation of the community.
With this in mind, the landmark design
proposal is composed of a series of sculptural elements arranged around the
intersection to convey the spirit of the community and several threads in
the diverse fabric of Japanese American experience. Together, the elements
create a dialogue across the intersection and create a place where numerous
topics and ideas are represented. These include, cultural heritage,
Japanese American history, ancestors and generations, values, and identity.
Concepts such as ga-man, on, giri, enyro, are also an integral
part of the landmark design concept.
A variety of representational techniques
from literal and figurative, to more abstract and expressive approaches are
used to convey these ideas. Together, these techniques create a landmark
that is sculptural, meaningful, and accessible. The ‘open form’ of the
individual elements and the overall arrangement is based on the Japanese
concept of ma, ‘the space between’. In poetic terms the space
between is a metaphor for what is shared and treasured, or the idea of
community. The concept also applies to the formal quality of the elements
and their arrangement at the intersection. The ‘open form’and varying scale
of the elements allows visitors to engage the landmark in a variety of ways,
with multiple senses.
Guiding Design Principles
(adapted from Michael Benedickt)
There are four design principles guiding the
design of the landmark
Presence: “Here presence means something
more than merely being perceptible; something rather, analogous to the “
presence” attributed to certain people – stage presence in an actor, for
instance – or to “ presence of mind.” Implied is a certain tautness,
attentiveness, assertiveness.” ….Being here and now.
Significance: If presence is largely a
perceptual matter, significance is a matter of understanding and meaning.
Landmarks with significance are important to someone, in addition to
being symbolic of something. Significance is about how the landmark
comes to be and continues to be a part of the lives of the people who dream
it, build it, and hopefully treasure it.
Materiality: Materiality is concerned with
the integrity of how the landmark is made. The landmark should use materials
honestly and focus on their genuinely unique properties. The concept of
wabi sabi, the idea of organic richness, temporality and change is applied
in the principle of materiality.
Emptiness: The work “emptiness” has a set
of connotations not intended here, that feeling of loss or loneliness, and
so forth. What is meant by emptiness here is rather more like silence,
clarity, and transparency. Emptiness may resound without sound, and make
open what is complete. As the Zen haiku has it:
departing geese do
not intend their reflection
in the lake below
Description of the Elements
Symbol of Japanese Heritage and Japan
Recognizing the heritage and origins of a
diverse JA community.
Wall of Values
Cultures and communities are constantly
evolving in a dynamic cycle of tradition and change. The values,
traditions, and ways of a culture are deep and binding expressions of
identity. Values and traditions may be repressed or suppressed, but they
cannot be extinguished, in fact history has shown that they persist through
the worst forms of discrimination, repression, and injustice. This
persistence is an indication of their depth, and the hope, that in an open
and multicultural society, they will continue to evolve and flourish. In my
view this is particularly true of Japanese Americans, and is uniquely
represented by the many JA parables, and sayings, many of which, have there
origin in Japan, but have been inflected and modified by the JA experience.
The “Wall of Values” draws on these unique
linguistic and cultural traditions to represent the heritage and values that
the Issei brought to America and how the community has evolved through
time. I feel that these saying’s, like many facets of JA culture have a
concise and poetic quality that captures the ‘spirit of the community’.
The wall forms a physical and visual
connection between the symbol of Japanese heritage and the Issei stone,
marking the adventure, courage and determination exhibited by pioneering
immigrants in their journey to a foreign land. Images and/or peepholes will
be incorporated in the wall element at child’s height, with images of Issei
grandmothers, and historical images of Japantown.
Issei Stone – Community touchstone
This 4’ – 6’ tall, rough granite stone
symbolizes the indomitable spirit of the Issei. The stone also serves as a
community touch stone. It will be treated to reveal the natural quality of
the stone with subtle modifications to reveal and invite the human touch
Gateway of Perseverance and Hope
If there is one concept or value that is a
common thread through the whole of the Japanese American experience it seems
to be the idea of perseverance, which, as I understand it, is rooted in the
Japanese concept of gaman, “to persevere, to endure pain and
suffering with dignity”. The Japanese American story is one of persistent
adversity and struggle. However, perseverance alone is not what
distinguishes the JA story. The Issei like all immigrants came to America
with hopes and dreams of a new and better life. In overcoming adversity,
Japanese Americans combined the traditional value of gaman with the optimism
and hope of American ideals such as equality, justice, and liberty.
It could be said that, without the dreams
that hope brings, perseverance is fruitless.
And thus we look upon the Issei stone
through the gateway of perseverance and hope.
The Issei were the first to pass through the
gateway, but every generation is challenged by the forces of the present and
it’s own place in history. Each JA generation represents a unique phase in
the life of the community.
The gateway of perseverance and hope is the
sculptural focus of the landmark and represents the soaring optimism, hope,
and perseverance of the community. As a simple elegant, and iconic form it
will be the primary ‘placemaker’. The scale and form are intended to create
a sense of wonder and engagement, and perhaps a bit of a wow factor.
In addition to the Issei stone, which marks
immigration to America, and the struggles of building family and community,
the landmark includes three other sculptural elements representing different
phases of the JA experience. These sculptural elements roughly correspond
with the Nisei, Sansei, and Yonsei – future generations.
Nisei Sculpture: Guardians of Dignity and
This piece represents the war period and
relocation, and specifically honors the Nisei generation. The sculpture
The injustice and indignity of
relocation: EO 9066
The splitting and uprooting of
The split between the Nisei
who chose to defend honor and dignity by resisting the draft (No No boys)
and those who chose to confirm JA loyalty and honor by joining the war
effort, 442nd, 100th, MIS.
Those who resisted relocation
and those who began the fight for constitutional rights by establishing
democratic institutions in Camp.
The loss and suffering – ‘the
hollow of relocation’
Confinement – a space for one
Sansei Sculpture: Bridge to the Past –
Voice of the Future
This piece represents the gradual post war
rebuilding of the community and the redress movement as well as the voice of
the Sansei generation
Civil rights - Asian American
Pluralism and assertion of
Cultural identity: challenge to the melting pot
Questioning the events of the
Rebuilding community –
education, and success!
Yonsei Sculpture: Light of the Future and
Generations to come
Dispersion – Preserving
identity and cultural values.