Location, location, location
There are better places than Old Pasadena to build the Armenian Genocide Memorial
By Victor Cass 05/08/2013
A s an alumnus of Art Center College of Design, I am thrilled that one of our own, 26-year-old Catherine Menard, produced the winning design for the proposed Pasadena Armenian Genocide Memorial, scheduled to be completed in Old Pasadena’s Memorial Park in 2015, the centennial of the beginning of the murders of more than 1.5 million Armenians at the hands of Ottoman Turks.
As a native of East Washington Village, Pasadena’s traditionally Armenian neighborhood, I’m also glad to see that this memorial, a timely and fitting remembrance of the 20th century’s first genocide, is finally going to happen.
However, I’m somewhat concerned that the same creativity and originality that went into the design apparently did not go into the selection of the location for the memorial’s placement. It’s not a stretch to imagine that someone went from Point A to Point B with the thought: “It’s a memorial. We have a park called Memorial Park. Let’s put it there.”
Good idea, except for one thing: Memorial Park is a remembrance space for US military service personnel, currently those who were killed in the Vietnam War and those who fought for the Union in the Civil War. It’s not a drop-off center for memorials from any number of groups from around the world that suffered some historical tragedy. If it were, or if it were allowed to become one, we would soon have a long line of “memorialists” clamoring for stone and steel remembrances to be erected there — from victims of the African slave trade and the Holocaust to the internment of Japanese Americans in World War II and the Rwandan massacre.
It’s not that those horrific events would be undeserving of their own memorials. Many already have them, only — and most importantly — they have been placed in appropriately well-thought out locations. I, for one, as much as I support the proposed Pasadena Armenian Genocide Memorial, would like to see Memorial Park remain the sole domain of US military remembrances.
This brings up my second argument. Memorial Park is small and on the verge of becoming cluttered, what with the Levitt Pavilion hosting concerts at the park’s amphitheater throughout the summer, a children’s play area, the Pasadena Senior Center, both war memorials and the old city library ruins. Why would anyone want to place the large and majestic Pasadena Armenian Genocide Memorial there anyway? Would it even fit? Old Pasadena, and for that matter the rest of the city’s west side, is already top-heavy with almost all of Pasadena’s artistic, historical and cultural edifices and institutions.
Are Pasadenans to be convinced that those who came up with the proposed home of the Armenian Genocide Memorial could not envision a better location for such a monument in East Washington Village or somewhere in East Pasadena?
I’m no urban planner, but even I could conceive of a stand-alone park space built at the intersection of Sierra Madre and Washington boulevards, or at Eaton Blanche Park, or any other suitable location in East Pasadena which could be turned into the home of Pasadena’s memorial, maybe one that included a roundabout, a parking area and a small visitor’s center, along with lights to illuminate it at night; a place where it would be separate, dignified and contemplative, and not just dropped into a “used” space in Old Pasadena like an afterthought. Think Washington, DC, or Grand Army Plaza in New York. Come on, be creative people! Let’s spread some of the cultural and historical wealth out east. Pasadenans and, more importantly, the victims of the Armenian Genocide, deserve as much.
Victor Cass is a Pasadena police officer, artist, writer and an occasional contributor to the Pasadena Weekly. He received his bachelor’s degree at Art Center and his master’s degree from American Military University. Follow him on Twitter @Victor_Cass.