City Chooses Daniel Tobin to Design AIDS Monument for WeHo Park

Illustration of James Tobin's proposal for an AIDS memorial for West Hollywood Park
Illustration of Daniel Tobin’s proposal for an AIDS memorial for West Hollywood Park

Australian designer Daniel Tobin has been chosen to design and install the AIDS monument planned for West Hollywood Park.

The decision was made last night by the West Hollywood City Council. In its recommendation of Tobin, the Foundation for an AIDS Monument, the non-profit group working to create the monument,  said his proposed design “functions as a destination piece — recognizable as an AIDS monument, leaving no question about the work when you leave the space.” It also noted that Tobin has “reiterated his personal dedication to the project as an openly HIV positive man.”

Tobin’s design is a field of 341 vertical strands on a raised platform between the park and San Vicente Boulevard through which people can walk.

“Some areas are designed for passive interactions, allowing for quiet reflection,” says a report to the Council from city staff members recommending Tobin. “Others are active, demanding participation. Each trace represents 5,000 Americans who have died of AIDS-related causes or who are living with HIV. There are three permanent rooms inviting visitors differing ways to the site to engage with the monument.”

The city’s Arts and Cultural Affairs Commission had recommendeded Susan Narduli, a Los Angeles architect and artist. Others under consideraton were Meeson Pae Yang and Ursula von Rydingsvard.

The Arts and Cultural Affairs Commission argued that Tobin’s design included “too many referential aspects to other monuments and public art works in the greater Los Angeles area and throughout the world.” By contrast, it said Narduli’s design was “a far more powerful, poetic and contemplative/reflective tribute to lives touched by AIDS in West Hollywood.”

The foundation describes the AIDS monument as a destination that “will pay tribute to the legacy of those we’ve lost, honor those who survived and the organizations of change that were born, and provide links and access to existing programs around HIV/AIDS education.”

Tobin is a graduate of the Queensland University of Technology in Australia with a degree in visual arts.  He  studied design at the National Institute of Dramatic Arts and worked with the Sydney Theatre Company and then  co-founded with his brother Matthew Urban Art Projects. Tobin has worked on projects such as Sahl Hasheesh in Egypt and Palm Jebel Ali in Dubai. He also directed the International Art Program for King Abdullah University of Science & Technology in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, and has also designed the university’s iconic Beacon. His most notable Australian projects include Brisbane Airport Corporation’s Commercial Precinct Art Program, Sydney’s Redfern Park and the Queensland State Library’s Black Opium with artist Fiona Foley.

Narduli is a Los Angeles architect and artist. Narduli began her career as a sculptor and then studied architecture. She has a BFA in sculpture and received a Masters degree in architecture form UCLA and worked as a project designer with Frank Gehry. In 1991 she opened Narduli Studio. Her awards have included a 2010 Public Art Year in Review award for weaving at California State University, Fresno, and a 2008 American Institute of Architects Award in urban design and planning for the Metlox Public Plazas in Manhattan Beach. Narduli caused a stir among officials at Los Angeles International Airport in 2001 with an art installation that included figures of nude men etched into a granite floor. LAX managers covered the installation until the Los Angeles Cultural Affairs Commission ruled that sketches of Narduli’s work had been approved previously by the city.

Susan Narduli. West hollywood park, AIDS monument
A rendering of the AIDS monument for West Hollywood Park proposed by Susan Narduli.

5 Comments
  1. Tobin and anyone else are free to work for whomever they want, but a West Hollywood AIDS Memorial should not have in any way even the slightest connection to Saudi Arabia (via Tobin or anyone else) where gays face capital punishment by hanging, beheading, or stoning, and women are severely oppressed. And a local person who knows our history should be given this commission. See link below for Saudi crimes

    http://www.nytimes.com/2015/10/14/world/middleeast/karl-andree-lashes-saudi-arabia-britain.html?_r=0

  2. As an HIV+ ACTUP/Queer National,as an environmental designer and now as a citizen of West Hollywood I am dumfounded by the fact that the architect selected to do the AIDS memorial located in West Hollywood, in his own words says his most exciting project was in Saudia Arabia. Now I realize designers often gravitate towards money and funding for their visions good and bad but we all make choices in life and these reflect who we are and where our souls lie. A country which stones Homosexuals to death is no small association. I ask our city council and members of this community is this who we want design a memorial for our our AIDS history.

  3. I volunteered for AIDS Project Los Angeles (APLA) in June of 1983 and was hired as their first Director of Volunteers in December of that year (a post I held until September of 1989). I refer to it as The Decade from Hell. Seeing people in absolute agony, some covered with lesions and knowing, back then, when I met someone, as I did too often, who was diagnosed that they would die within about six months, as they did. That said, I do not think it necessary to have an AIDS Monument. Give me a break ! Those people who died of AIDS are etched in our collective memories. Isn’t that enough? Further, I take exception with the “Gay Flag” floating above City Hall or on SMB. Yet alone have the “gay” colors on the cars of the Sherriff’s Department. Yes, WeHo has a LOT of LBGT residents BUT there are other residents who are not. Oh, and when I began at APLA, there was only the Gay and, perhaps, Lesbian Center, as I recall, on Highland just north of SMB. How did the Lesbians (LGBT) get “in front” of gay men? LOL ! If you want to hate me, please be my guest BUT where were YOU in the 80s when even gay men did not want to be associated with APLA. I have stories to tell.

  4. Item 2k on the agenda last night.. and we all owe a debt of thanks to John Duran. His comments brought tears to my eyes. He spoke of how AIDS affected our community.. and how he and many of us were ‘broken’ by this disease and the loss of so many of our best friends.. John spoke to the design elements and pushed for more community recognition. He cited so many of our social service organizations and heroes to make this a ‘community monument’ and not a just a national monument. John’s commitment and input to shape the spirit of this AIDS monument should be applauded. Thank you John for your incredible contribution.

  5. … Glad to see my former neighborhood finally approve this project. We had our AIDS Memorial, here in Bflo./Niagara, finished in thee early ’90s. Located near Kleinhans Music Hall, home of thee Bflo. Philharmonic, it’s a modest corner park with an AIDS sidewalk-&-monument, with names of those we’ve lost. Trees, bushes-&-benches surround the area.

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