The Cultured Pearl
There are three Pacific Rim Parks strung around the Pacific. At the center of each park is a large "pearl" covered with white mosaic tiles. These pearls represent the beauty that can develop when two irritants are brought together. In the case of the pearl it is always a grain of sand and an oyster. In the case of Pacific Rim Park it was the cultures of Russia, China, Mexico, and the United States.
In 1994 artist/architect James Hubbell and Milenko Matanovic brought American and Mexican architectural students to Vladivostok to work with Russian architectural students. They developed a design for a park on the grounds of Far Eastern State Technical University, then built the park by hand. When the project was complete James made a promise to the President of FESTU, Gennady Turmov, that a similar project would be developed in San Diego. It took four years to develop, but in June of 1998 architecture students from Russia, Mexico, and the United States met in San Diego to begin working on the second Pacific Rim Park. During the first week the students learned to how to listen to each other while they worked on ideas for the final designs. By the beginning of the second week they had become a team.
The original arrangements called for four students from China to join the group, but the U.S. State Department refused to issue visas. After three weeks of appeals to the American Embassy in Beijing the Chinese students were finally granted their visas and left for San Diego. Their arrival meant that there were enough hands to complete the physical labor, but the real challenge lay in integrating the Chinese and their official Party chaperone into the creative community that had developed without them. Every participant experienced the discomfort of finding the cracks in their worldview as they confronted their own prejudices and clashed on issues of gender, race and class in order to successfully complete The Cultured Pearl.