City council approved an $850,000 design for a COVID-19 memorial, “Twin Arches” that will flank the two sides of Shoreline Aquatic Park in Downtown Long Beach.
The design was submitted by People’s Architecture Office (POA) based in Long Beach, and was one of three submissions. The second and third place submissions were awarded $2,500 by the COVID-19 Memorial Panel.
“It’s very difficult oftentimes for art and artists to create something that will move people … but when I saw this design … it’s so beautiful and it’s such a striking memorial,” said Mayor Robert Garcia. “The intention is to make it somewhere where people can honor those who have died and also to honor the heroes of COVID.”
The COVID-19 Memorial Committee has been led by Ron Arias, former director of Long Beach’s Health Department. The other six members are made up by community leaders in the arts, healthcare and education fields.
Committee members made their decision for the location of the memorial based on the following qualifications: access by transit, parking, public restrooms, ambiance and mood, security and site availability.
“I think this is a very fitting final vote of this city council. We went through something together and it was a leadership moment for our city.”
Mayor-elect Rex Richardson
Funding for the project comes from $600,000 of the General Fund and $250,000 from Measure A funds. The maintenance costs for the memorial will be provided by the City and has yet to be estimated.
The memorial consists of two metal arches 20 feet high and 40 feet wide, whose incomplete form is meant to symbolize the “loss, disconnection and isolation that people experienced during the pandemic” as well as emphasize “the importance of human connection.”
The two arches contain a retractable structure that will expand to 200 feet of shade-providing canopy connecting the arches. The covered canopy can host events such as community workshops, dinners, exhibits and more.
“I think this is a very fitting final vote of this city council. We went through something together and it was a leadership moment for our city,” said Mayor-elect Rex Richardson. “This is also an opportunity to remember those heroes who stepped up: Nurses, farm workers, grocery workers, pharmacy workers. I think it’s important that we’re inclusive of them as well.”
There will be reflective square panels on the ground leading up to the arches, “creating a landscape of missing pieces” alluding to the loss of lives due to the pandemic. Names of residents who were lost due to COVID-19 will be etched into the inside of each arch, while the outside will be a polished finish that reflects the changing skies.
According to POA’s submission, viewers are encouraged to touch the names and insert flowers into the engraved spaces.
“Upon careful reading, the disproportionate effect of the pandemic on ethnic minorities distinguished through surnames may become apparent,” the artist’s submission reads. The names of people are engraved up the walls of the arches until they become blank lines to represent, “unknown individuals, those whose death were not recorded and those we will lose to the next pandemic.”
“This memorial will be meaningful to so many in our journey of healing from the impacts and losses that was brought upon us by COVID-19,” said councilmember Mary Zendejas, whose district the memorial will be constructed in. “This project will be a cherished and needed memory of what we’ve gone through together and a reminder that it is together that we will move past this stronger and more united than ever.”