Bainbridge Island Japanese American Exclusion memorial Departure Deck Interpretive Sculpture

Artist: Anna Brones and Luc Revel
Location: Bainbridge Island, Seattle, USA
Year: 2022

What would those who walked down the ferry dock on March 30, 1942 have felt? In this concept we have worked at creating an artistic installation that aims to invoke some of the emotions felt by the hundreds of Japanese Americans forcibly removed from their homes on Bainbridge Island through the intentional placement of abstract yet powerful imagery and objects. Our intent is to not revert to the obvious visual cues the subject of displacement and deportation may provoke, but push further in our response and see if we can lay the framework for the viewer to bring their own understanding through the open-endedness of abstracted representations. Our primary intent is to take the powerful context of the existing memorial and project it to its logical conclusion, the final act of dispossession, the deportation of so many Japanese Americans. To do this, we feel it crucial to remove the visual barrier at the end of the departure dock, to manifest the way, on that fateful day, they were forced to leave via that route.

In this concept there are several underlying threads weaving the proposal together. One of these is the use of cyclical motifs, present throughout, as an analogy for the departure, but also return to Bainbridge Island of some of the deported, not to mention the cyclical nature of history, and that with hindsight, one is capable of seeing the ebb and flow of previous events.Another organizing component is the repetition of the symbolic number 227, an homage to those ordered to leave the island and who passed down the ferry dock at this location. The number 276 is already present in the length of the “story wall,” identifying all of the Japanese and Japanese American residents on Bainbridge Island in 1942, and we take inspiration from that to highlight the exact number of people who walked on the dock and onto the ferry to be deported that day.

The overall design features an assortment of cut out steel panels, each created from an original papercut illustration. These panels create an ensemble that carries the visitor along towards the culminating point of the imperceptible glass railing at the end of the deck, each step they take another closer to the unknown.With this design we want to create a strong sequence of experiences, encouraging the visitor to traverse the entire distance of the Departure Deck, discovering new elements along the way, culminating in the terminating point. The experience and understanding of the works will be different from the beginning of the visit until the last aspect of the proposal has been discovered, encouraging the visitor to trace the path that the Japanese Americans would have walked on their way to their uncertain future, and cultivate an empathetic reaction as they are drawn towards the final point.

As the visitor enters the beginning of the promenade at the top of the “story wall,” they will be presented with a long vista culminating in the end of the Departure Deck. Even though the end of the Departure Deck is hundreds of feet away, and certainly hard to make out at that distance, we feel it is critical that a glass railing replace the wooden terminal, thus allowing the visitor to see through and out towards the water. The visitor will see a dock that seemingly drops off into Eagle Harbor.Framing the Departure Deck, there are four steel panels on each side, decreasing in height as the visitor gets closer to the end. Their structure is reminiscent of the architecture of a typical ferry landing and runs parallel to the railings of the deck. From far away as the visitor walks down the path following the memorial wall, these panels are barely noticeable because of their thin structure and orientation parallel to the promenade. However, as the visitor gets closer, and the panels become larger and more apparent, the attention is drawn towards their detail.

The first two panels are placed right before the deck begins. These two panels are the largest, intended to create a tall and intimidating feeling, reminiscent of the armed soldiers on the day of departure. To provide extra structural support, the base of these two panels will form a slender triangle, not unlike the silhouette of the rifles held by the soldiers. Combined with a solid steel plate of the same width that runs horizontally along the ground from the base of these two “sentinels,” this creates a type of inverted gateway.

We envisage reducing the width of the ground plate from the suggested 6’ to 2’, in order to match the width of our proposed vertical monolithic panels, helping to symbolize a threshold the visitor must pass over to reach the Departure Deck, and a point of no return for the deported.The content of these two panels sets the stage for what took place on that day. On one is a cutout of human silhouettes, inspired by the photographs taken of the Bainbridge Islanders walking down the dock that day, larger at the bottom and getting smaller towards the top to create a sense of scale. A short and poetic written description is also included, to help the visitor understand that they are walking in the exact same place as those deported. The words “Nidoto nai yoni // Let it not happen again” are included. The other panel features an abstract pattern created by cutouts of 227 shapes reminiscent of the tags each person was forced to wear that day.The following six panels consist of three distinct designs mirrored on both sides of the deck. These three different panels are intended to represent the themes of air, earth, and water. This repetition across from one another will allow larger groups to be able to experience the same elements even if parts of the Departure Deck are already at capacity.

The element of Air is an acknowledgment of the departure of the Japanese from their homeland, bringing them to the island, including the visual of a heron, a symbolic and noteworthy bird in both Japan and the Pacific Northwest. Earth, to represent their connection to the island, the land they called home, and the soil that many of them worked and represented in some of the artwork in the “story wall.” Water to represent their departure, also graphically inspired by the movement in the structure of the memorial wall. Each element is used to create an abstract cut out pattern in the steel, growing in density as the visitor gets closer to the end of the dock. The panels are 2’ in width, to allow for ample room in between them, keeping the open feel of the dock.All the steel panels will be fabricated from rusted steel, meaning they will be naturally protected from corrosion in this marine environment.

As the visitor draws closer to the glass railing at the end of the deck and passes the last of the three elemental panels, only then will they finally see the short section of ramp that extends out beyond the glass, previously hidden from view because of its gently sloping aspect. Through its angle and distorted perspective, it symbolically represents as much of the original ferry dock as technically possible due to limited anchoring from the end of the Departure Deck. Finally, their focus will settle on this section of ramp, created by what looks to be a metal “grate.” On closer inspection, the grate is created with a steel cut out of a pattern of 227 sets of shoe prints, all overlapping to heighten the significance of the number of the 227 people who stepped off the dock and onto the ferry, leaving their homes behind, and forced to head towards a fearful and uncertain future.

Standing at the glass railing, the visitor is cut off from this ramp, designed to elicit an emotional response to dwell on what Japanese Americans may have felt on that day. The visitor is “protected” by the glass barrier, yet still aware of the fear and trepidation that would be involved in standing on the ramp, much like we would feel standing at the edge of a cliff. A window to the emotions of the past, a reminder of what should never be allowed to happen again.

Facing out over Eagle Harbor, the visitor also looks across to the modern-day ferry terminal, their current reality contrasted with the history of those who were forced upon a ferry many decades ago.The glass railing will be code compliant laminated safety glass designed for an exterior environment. Unlike the metal panels, there will be occasional cleaning necessary to keep the transparency of the glass optimal, as it is integral to the visual effect of there being no actual barrier at the end of the Departure Deck.

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Located on the southern shore of the entrance to Eagle Harbor, the Wyckoff Company facility on Bainbridge Island was once one of the world’s largest creosote plants. Treated wood from the site was used for some of the 20th century’s most important infrastructure projects, including wharves in San Francisco, flood control channels in Los Angeles, and the Panama Canal. By 1987, however, environmental concerns resulted in the designation of the area as a top priority Superfund site, and the property came under the control of the Environmental Protection Agency.In July, 2001 Mayor Dwight Sutton appointed the Wyckoff Acquisition Task Force to recommend the best use of the property. After study, the Task Force delivered a “preferred alternative” to create a regional public park at the site and recommended the park be named after the late U.S. Representative Joel Pritchard, a summer resident of the Island.A Memorial to March 30, 1942At the same time, plans were being drawn up for the Bainbridge Island WWII Nikkei Exclusion Memorial—a collaboration between the Bainbridge Island/North Kitsap Interfaith Council and the Bainbridge Island Japanese American Community (BIJAC)—at the western edge of what would become Pritchard Park. A ceremony marking the 60th anniversary of the forced removal of Japanese Americans from Bainbridge Island took place March 30th, 2002 along Taylor Avenue, the site of the Eagledale Ferry Dock from which the removal took place. In August 2002, 95-year-old Fumiko Hayashida, the oldest survivor of the exclusion, testified before the U.S. Congress in support of a bill to direct the National Park Service to study the site for national memorial status.Two Themes: Healing and CommunityIn February 2003 the City Council officially endorsed the name of Pritchard Park. Friends of Pritchard Park, a group consisting of community members from the Task Force, the Bainbridge Island Land Trust, BIJAC and the Pritchard family, encouraged community fundraising for the $8MM purchase. The Island’s federal and state representatives assisted in obtaining grants, while representatives and staff from the City and Parks District worked hard to get state and local funds. During the campaign to raise funds a theme evolved that this would be a healing park—a healing for two wrongs in the past: one to the social fabric of the community and constitutional rights of citizens; the second to the contamination of the land itself.In May 2008, Congress voted to include the Memorial in the Minidoka National Historic Site as part of the Consolidated Natural Resources Act of 2008. The purchase of the lands for Pritchard Park and the Exclusion Memorial was made possible through the efforts of myriad members of the community working in collaboration with local, state, and federal government entities and private donors to secure funding and establish a safe and meaningful public resource. This grassroots effort, which has continued for 20 years of development at the Memorial, exemplifies the power of Community and the dedication to “Nidoto Nai Yoni” that makes the Exclusion Memorial such a special place.

The project's excellence lies in its ability to:1. Promote Awareness and Understanding: The installation offers a unique and powerful way to convey the emotions and experiences of Japanese Americans forcibly removed from their homes during World War II. By using abstract representations and symbols, it encourages viewers to reflect on the historical events, fostering empathy and a deeper understanding of the past.2. Foster Remembrance and Reflection: The project creates a space for remembrance and reflection on a crucial historical moment. By evoking emotions and providing a physical journey, it compels visitors to engage with the history of Japanese Americans' deportation, emphasizing the importance of remembering and learning from the past.3. Encourage Empathy and Prevention: By allowing visitors to imagine what those affected might have felt, the installation promotes empathy. It serves as a powerful reminder of the need to prevent such injustices from happening again, both within the local community and on a broader societal level.4. Artistic Excellence: The project's use of abstract representations, cyclical motifs, and symbolic numbers showcases artistic excellence. It effectively conveys complex emotions and historical themes through visually striking and thought-provoking designs.5. Cultural Connection: The project recognizes the cultural heritage and shared history of Japanese Americans on Bainbridge Island, creating a connection to the island's past and its residents.In terms of community impact, the project serves as a unifying force, bringing people together to remember and reflect on a shared history. It fosters a sense of community, empathy, and shared responsibility for preventing similar injustices. It can help create a more inclusive and informed community by engaging individuals in discussions about history, social justice, and human rights.Economically, while the project may not have a direct financial impact, it can indirectly contribute to the local economy by attracting visitors and tourists interested in its historical and artistic significance. This increased tourism can benefit local businesses and cultural institutions, supporting economic growth.Overall, the project's excellence is evident in its ability to evoke emotions, stimulate empathy, and create a space for remembrance and reflection. Its impact on the community is primarily social and cultural, contributing to a more inclusive and empathetic local society.

Progress Agency