The United States is a country of immigrants with a long history of receiving new arrivals. In 1886, the statue of “Liberty Enlightening the World” was officially unveiled, and between 1892 and 1954 the Ellis Island Immigration Station processed 12 million immigrants in New York City alone.

Angel Island, in the San Francisco Bay, was home to the West Coast Immigration Station, which was built in 1905. Unlike Ellis Island, new arrivals were housed in barracks on the island under very difficult conditions, some for extended periods of time. Until the station’s closure in 1940, the island was seen as a mechanism to exile immigrants in geo-political limbo – there was never a Statue of Liberty welcoming them.

Channeling the spirit of its east coast counterpart, this competition presents the opportunity to propose a welcoming place of sanctuary in the form of a new arrival center on Angel Island for new immigrants as well as a place of reflection for past immigrants and the communities within which they now live.

Today, Angel Island is a California State Park offering a broad range of recreation activities for people seeking to escape the density of the city, while also offering historical tours of the old immigration and military facilities dotting the island. As described by the Park Service, most visitors to Angel Island find the Immigration Station to be a place of reflection—although for returning immigrants processed through the station, this experience can be bittersweet.

The competition aims to explore how landscape and architecture as sanctuary and refuge can be coalesced to develop a place of multi-sensory contemplation and reconciliation. In broad terms, a sanctuary can be considered a place of refuge and protection, both in physical and psychological terms. People seek refuge in many forms and places; for some it is in the form of community, a gathering place, or some form of religious worship. For others, it could be a place for solitary contemplation and reflection. Some find refuge in music, art, or nature – others in meditation.

Proposals should provide a non-denominational, sanctuary to support past and present immigrants to the United States and SF Bay Area. They should provide places for quiet contemplation as well as areas to gather in community groups of various sizes. The sanctuary should enable new arrivals to connect physically, spiritually and emotionally with their new home. They should also provide a safe environment in which connections can be made, enabling a new sense of community, and transition to one’s new home. For returning visitors, it provides a place for education, contemplation, and reflection. Inherently, this exploration of architecture as sanctuary involves an active bodily encounter, and thus should consider all of the human senses to create feelings of comfort, safety, privacy and community.

The project site is loosely defined as the valley and cove encompassing the original Immigration Station on Angel Island. While the existing detention barracks building remain as a historical totem, residual foundations of the main processing building also remain and should be considered. Thought should be given to the mix of interior conditioned spaces, and exterior spaces (even though the island can be warm and sunny, heavy fog and coastal winds can descend quite quickly).

The program will be approximately 4,000–6,000 square feet of delineated contemplation and gathering spaces as well as support functions, incorporating built and natural features of the adjacent landscape.


March 22, 2019
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