top of page

1871 Los Angeles Memorial

“When future generations look back to my time, it will probably be similar to 
how I now think of the past”
                                                                         Wang Xizhi, <Lanting Xu>, 353 AD

This is a quote from one of the most notable poems in Chinese literature sentimental
piece composed more than 1600 years ago but still holds true today. 
Compared to 353 AD, 1871 seems less far away even though the cityscape and the
demographic of Los Angeles have changed significantly. Economical and sociological
progress has made people live in a very different environment than 
what is shown in historic images, but human emotions and instincts remain 
unchanged. Through those monochrome photos of old Chinatown and the af-termath
of the massacre, we see what was once joy and hope turned into fear 
and horror. Enormous pain was brought to the Chinese American community 
that could only be healed when it is open to feel, so this memorial will serve 
the purpose of honoring victims, strengthening bonds and restoring hope at 
this time when the world has seen too much violence, racism and intolerance. 
From Covid Asian hate to school mass shootings, the hatred towards a race or 
even the entire humanity is not too different from that in history. Los Angeles 
residents will be reminded by this memorial that justice and peace are not 
given, but to fight for in every generation.

The memorial has one primary form on Site 1, a section of sidewalk adjacent 
to Plaza Firehouse and secondary landscape feature for each of the below 
Ramon C. Cortines School of Visual and Performing Arts ( Old city Cemetery)
The City Jail
Gray’s Vineyard
Union Station

This primary site offers an opportunity to build a sculptural and tangible structure
for people to walk around, stay within and look up, as a gathering place 
for reflecton and connecton. The four secondary sites: old Chinatown, old 
cemetery, and two places where some sought sanctuary, are chosen to bring 
hope, peace and dignity into the storytelling.
The symbol of design is the moon, for its cultural significance to the Chinese 
people and its timelessness that transcends space and history. As a metaphor 
for home in Chinese culture, the moon’s full round shape signifies the reunion 
of friends and families, as well as  the longings and wishes for those who could 
not return.

On the primary site, the tall circular sculptural form creates a tranquil zone 
for people to ponder and stop. Concrete shields noise from the streets while 
the cut out texts allow light to go through and be reflected through the tinted 
mirror on the interior wall. Looking up, one big circular opening encourages 
visitors to soak up to the sky and at night its edge glows to form a symbol of 
the moon. On top of the fine concrete, a band of metal, whose red color is 
drawn from the exterior of the Museum of Chinese in America nearby, wraps 
around and turns into an exterior bench.

On secondary sites, the same form of metal band is used for lighting and bench, 
only eliminating the concrete and scaling down to fit each individual site. The 
tinted mirror is still held by the steel structure, with histories imprinted to tell 
a coherent story with all sites.

For the material, cast-in-place concrete and bended steel plates allow for a 
cost effective construction and easy future maintenance. During development, 
the footprint for both primary and secondary sites could be mapped out with 
a landscape feature as a temporary commensurate method and gradual introduction
for the memorial.

bottom of page