NJAM – Nina Akuma – DBA


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Nina Akuma, sculptor 

Washington, DC



For the Memorial, Buckley conceived of a simple spiral plan that involves visitors in an experience of confinement and release.  At the center of the memorial stands Nina Akamu’s 14 foot tall bronze sculpture depicting two cranes painfully ensnared in barbed wire.  This moving allegorical figure stands at the center of the memorial while the store of the interned Japanese Americans is cut in surrounding stone walls.  Two of the birds’ wings are grounded while the other two reach skyward in a graceful effort to free themselves from the wire that entangles them.

As a third generation Japanese American, Akamu understood how much the memorial meant to the Japanese American community.  She extensively studied the history of World War II, through new articles, photographs, personal manuscripts, and interviews, and the design of her sculpture drew upon her research.  Although it represents a community as a whole, the symbolic impact of each story is intertwined in the confines of the two cranes.

Buckley and Akamu worked extensively together on the design, placement and purpose of her sculpture within the memorial.  Their outstanding design was honored by the Henry Hering Medal which celebrates the collaboration between architect and sculptor in the distinguished use of sculpture in an architectural project.

More of Akamu’s work can be seen on her website at http://ninaakamu.com/.


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