TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) - Some call it a place of spirituality, reflection or even mourning.
But for the designers of the January 8 Memorial, it is also a celebration of life.
“Memorials are a really unique project type,” said architect Tina Chee. “It requires many layers of meaning.”
Chee and partner Marc Salette created a design layered with such meaning.
Chee Salette, their Los Angeles-based firm, beat out 59 others for the honor of creating what would become the January 8 Memorial.
Located at El Presido Park, directly behind the county courthouse, every detail is significant and starts with the memorial’s shape.
“We visited the historical museum where the artifacts were,” Chee said. “For me, one of the things that was inspirational was this chain, this paper chain that was made.”
The design mimicked that paper chain with one notable exception. Seen from above, the memorial resembles one single chain link broken in half.
“We recognized that this very beautiful shape,” Salette said, “(It) was representing the arms of the community of Tucson protecting, hugging, and comforting the family members, the people who were killed, the people who survived.”
While most memorials only list names of those affected by the tragedy, Chee and Salette went one step further.
“We developed this idea of using symbols to talk about the story,” Salette said. “That would allow us to say a lot more than words. It would be a universal language.”
One of those symbols is a hummingbird, which represents the late Judge John Roll.
“We learned when we spoke to his widow they had been living with hummingbirds in their garden for many, many years,” Salette said. “But on the day of the tragedy, a hummingbird came into the house and that was the first time that had ever happened. That moment for his widow symbolized his presence.”
Other details represent Tucson in a greater context. Thirty two lanterns light the path, each adorned with a symbol representing a point in southern Arizona history.
Local stone paints the shell of what Chee calls the living wall, rising and falling like a mountain in the Sonoran Desert.
“We’re so really proud of this,” Chee said. “We hope people will understand it and find beauty and peace and harmony for themselves.”
Additional features include six gardens honoring the six victims, each themed to represent the individual, as well as a gentle waterfall that overflows like a tranquil shield in front of their names engraved in the basin.