Friday, July 28, 2023 | 2 a.m.
For Derek Sola and his team, coming up with a design for the permanent memorial to honor Oct. 1 mass shooting victims was personal.
Each member of Sola’s team at JCJ Architecture knew someone who was affected by the Oct. 1, 2017, tragedy near the Strip that immediately killed 58 people and wounded around 800 others.
When the call for qualified design teams was made, they were ready.
“We vividly remember (the shooting’s) impacts, and in some way, in some form, we all know someone that was either at the concert or had friends of friends that were there that were impacted that night,” said Sola, the design principal and architectural design lead at JCJ Architecture. “We live here, we are part of this community, we’re raising our families here as part of the Vegas culture, and so many of us in the office felt compelled to really participate as a way of giving back to the community and as a way of doing more for those who were impacted.”
The 1 October Memorial Committee voted unanimously Wednesday to recommend the JCJ Architecture Team Design to the Clark County Commission to design the permanent memorial. It is planned for the south Strip on the plot of land where the shooting happened.
Board member Mynda Smith, whose sister Neysa Tonks was one of the fatal victims, said she had “no doubt that whatever design is going to be chosen, that it will become a beautiful space for the families, for the survivors.” She abstained from voting.
“It has not been easy, and I will not lie that this has been a simple process because it hasn’t,” Smith said through tears at the meeting. “But at the end of the day, I truly know that this will be something that will become something of beauty and healing and love.”
Aaron Neubert Architects+ studioStigsgaard, Paul Murdoch Architects, SWA Group and OLIN + Andy Scott were the other four finalists chosen at the beginning of January to enter into the final design concept proposal stage.
“Every single team was absolutely amazing and they have learned so much and put their hearts into this process. … This is a life-changing event for the teams also,” Sue Ann Cornwall, one of the survivors, said during the meeting.
OLIN + Andy Scott was picked as an alternate recommendation in the case that the Clark County Commission decides not to move forward with JCJ Architecture when it votes Sept. 5.
That design included a procession of large horse statues that each represent a state or country the shooting victims were from.
“The community engagement was of the utmost importance to this committee, and so we have worked very hard to engage the community and then take that and develop a process where that information could be incorporated into the design,” said Tennille Pereira, chair of the 1 October Memorial Committee and director of the Vegas Strong Resiliency Center.
The winning design
There are multiple aspects of JCJ Architecture’s design meant to represent the development of a song.
It begins with the prelude at the entryway of the memorial, then glides into the opening verses as one walks through the exhibit.
Eventually, visitors reach a bridge, where a colorful 58-foot light tower is planned.
Underneath that is “The Surround,” a 1,600-square-foot chamber sheltered from the South Strip’s skyline that contains 22,000 points of light to represent the number of concertgoers who attended the Route 91 Harvest festival on the night of the shooting.
There are also 58 bronze “candle” light towers in the Remembrance Ring, an Angel Wall with the names of each person who died in the immediate aftermath of the shooting, and a community plaza with landscaping and different visual elements accompanied by quotes or lyrics.
“We, through our process, considered every single moment and element within the design; every space has a very deep meaning associated with it,” Sola said. “There’s a lot of layers of meaning and expression that are maybe not readily recognized upon first look at it, but everything has a meaning associated with it.”
The design team said it conducted seven listening sessions with people affected by the shooting, including families of the 58 who died, survivors, emergency responders and other members of the community.
Each session was limited to no more than 12 individuals “in an effort to keep the conversations really focused and make our guests feel more comfortable speaking with smaller groups,” Sola said.
“The purpose of this — and it’s such a critical part to the entire memorial design — was to really listen to their stories, and as a way of really informing the memorial designed to gather information and their insights and understandings as to the needs and preferences and aspirations, not only for themselves, but for potential people who will be visiting the memorial,” Sola said.
In total, they spoke with 30 to 40 people, but also reached out to many more artists, composers and songwriters during their research on how to convey mass mourning in a meaningful manner.
The community “really wanted to have a deep yearning for a place, for healing and uniting and connecting with others” to mourn those losses, Sola said. Country music was another big aspect, of course.
“At the end of the day, we view ourselves as really being a vehicle to help convey all the thoughts and the needs and the desires that were conveyed to us from the community, and somehow express that in a physical manifestation,” Sola said.
A mock-up of JCJ Architecture’s proposal as well as the other four submissions are on display at the Clark County Government Center through Sept. 7.