Yiying Tang

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Bridge Sanctuary

Memorial To The Victims Of The 1871 Chinese Massacre

Finalist, Memorial to the Victims of the
1871 Chinese Massacre Competition

According to research by UC Berkeley 2021, the Los Angeles metropolitan area remains the sixth-most segregated of the 221 metro areas. Also according to Stephen Menendian, the study’s lead author, “Residential segregation is the undercurrent of basically every expression of structural racism in the country, from health disparities to over-policing.”

Does discrimination lead to segregation? Or does segregation lead to more severe discrimination? It seems like a tricky question, but we do know to solve the problem, one thing we have to do is to bring people together. The conversation is much needed. Humans are so complicated that we often hide manipulate twist and misunderstand our own feelings as well as others, without even realizing it.

Physically, we’re trying to create a bridge to connect the urban enclaves. Conceptually, this space would also be a bridge between people of different races, with different backgrounds and speak different languages. Initially, we rejected the idea of making a sculpture or an object as the memorial, because, for us, it doesn’t really convey much information. For us, a good memorial should not only be able to tell a story of the past, but most importantly, it has to be able to engage in the present and connect with the future. It is also the reason we started the concept by analyzing the site condition. It doesn’t make much sense for us to design something that can be put in any city around the world, or any other place in LA.

Urban Context and Site

Project Concept

Civic Space

We’ll look at how we can try to solve the problems we found. our first thought was to try to carry the existing building languages and apply them to our site. If we look at our mapping, it shows our initial thought clearly that we are trying to create another small quality space for people to stay. Working along with Olvera Street and El Pueblo, we want to create a nice sequence of spatial experiences. Looking at the mapping, you can see how every block is becoming an isolated island in the city, separated by all of those busy roads. Here we’re trying to create a subversion of the bridge to connect those isolated urban spaces and bring more human interaction to the site.

Site Plan

Instead of building any structure above the road, we simply modified the material of the road to create a bridge. The first thing we did was to carry along the existing material palette of the site. And by replacing the asphalt road with red bricks, people will be able to sense the uniqueness of the space from far away, or even when they’re just driving through the site. With this simple move, we hope it’ll draw people’s attention to the site and the project. The next move is on the sidewalk, by redesigning the sidewalk space and creating a linear space with multiple different infrastructure that becomes a layer between the Los Angeles Road and the museum, we were able to blue and soften that boundary. Also provide a sheltered space, a sanctuary to protect people from the busy traffic.

In order to activate the site and make it a space for public gathering and introspection, we decided to take on the approach of creating an everyday scene that plays the role of the memorial. By a relatively restrained approach, we’re willing to make the site a place of reverence, communication, and healing. Ideally, the memorial will create a space for everyone passing by to stay or simply go through. Instead of creating an object, we try to create a location and movements.

Instead of an object, we would want to create a space that engages in the community. Looking at this perspective, you’ll understand what I mean. We’re on a sidewalk. It is a place meant to be for the transition or circulation. People just pass by or drive by. An object here is not enough to draw their attention and make them stop. The solution is to create a location. Creating a location at a place that is meant to be for the transition and let people slow down and stay. When people slow down, there will be interactions, there will be conversations.

People of different races, religions, genders, and those who speak different languages would share a moment under the trees, sitting together, having a good conversation, and taking a peek at the unresolved problems of the city.
People can scan the QR codes attached to the memorial to have a virtual tour of Los Angeles in the 19th century, and get detailed information about the massacre. We also designed emergency call buttons for people to use, to make our design a part of a safer LA.

Furthermore, people will utilize this space to protest, celebrate festivals, and have community meetings about the future of the city. For us, the memorial would be more meaningful when it’s really utilized by not only tourists but also people living in this city, this neighborhood. A place that can make people passing by slow down, take a look around, and sit there to enjoy that moment and talk to people, that’s something the city really needs.

By using three different structural components, brick, wood, and metal, we try to create a metaphor of an immigrant society. First, as a response to the facade of the Chinese American Museum and the neighborhood, red bricks are used as the base structure, which also plays the role of the natives in the city. Light-weight wood components are immigrants, who are standing on the foundation created by the natives. All the names of the victims are engraved on the wood columns.

Two types of metal structural components are designed for both compression and tension. The wood structure that’s sitting on bricks would be stable only when the metal structure and joints get a perfect balance between compression and tension.

It’s a metaphor for the immigrant society. It’s never an easy thing to fit in or to accept new people and new cultures that are strange to you, but we have to keep trying. Those metal strings and joints are people’s effort that’s keeping the brick-wood system balanced. At the same time, these new Angelenos are working together to accommodate people in this city to have a conversation.

You probably have also noticed that all the columns use hinge joints, so they have to work with tension together to keep the whole structure working. That’s also what we’re trying to convey, everyone in our society deserves to be treated equally. And each of you should be proud of who you are, where you are from, as well as your contribution to your community, and society. Everyone plays their particular, irreplaceable role, so whenever you get the chance, tell your story! be upright, be proud. Do whatever you can, to start a conversation, to change the narrative. 

As the designers, we also want to say thanks to all the immigrants. It is their tireless hard work and resilience that makes the city home to their offspring as well as later Chinese immigrants following their steps just like us.

Design Team: Yiying Tang, Jiawei Yao, Sonam Lhamo