graphic design, environmental design, architecture competitions, sculpture, experience design


san mateo county, california


The large number of vertical elements combined with their repetition and density will produce unique density patterns that will change as visitors encircle the monument.

NELSON MANDELA, born Rolihlahla translates to THE SHAKER OF TREES

Our design proposal for this memorial to commemorate the life of Nelson Mandela is designed to be a visual, tactile, and acoustic experience. The form is comprised of 2,013 cast bronze spears—marking the year of his passing—rising vertically from the ground.
A 45x45 grid totaling 2,025 units has 12 removed the Southwestern corner along an axis aligned to produce a shadow absence each December 5 at 11:50am; the date set in bronze lettering inlaid in
the ground plane and bathed in a beam of light.


Each spearhead will be formed with one of 27 unique designs representing the duration of his incarceration and inspired by the individualistic designs from tribes of the regions close to Mandela’s ancestral home. The spear shaft will taper from 1.5 inch diameter
at the base to .75 inch, rising to 15 feet.


The spears embrace the specificity of this hilltop by capturing “the cool refreshing breeze of freedom” as Maya Angelou describes in
her poem, His Day is Done, by converting the wind into an acoustic experience as each spear bends in the wind and the spearheads clash or scrape against one another like cymbals producing a dynamic range of color and effect. The weight of each spearhead
will amplify the pendulum motion initiated by the wind gusts and maximize harmonic deflection; like voices producing enduring, organically layered, and unique acoustic pitches. Each spear
reminds us of our individuality and warrior spirit, expressing hope, desire for freedom, peace, and solidarity.




The winds cause the minimalist cube form to sway and ebb, and produce a slightly blurred representation of the form. Additionally, the quantity, density, and the repetitious vertical linearity of the spears set
in a precise grid, will generate naturally occurring visual disruptions, or moiré patterns. These moirés will create both opacities and windows through the form that will transform and shift as one moves toward and around the monument, creating an engaging and dynamic 360-degree experience. As in life, emerging out of rigidly defined systems, disruptive patterns emerge germane to the apparatus itself. Despite the optical effects, the formal character and definition will always remain clear
and enduring.


Mandela’s forename, Rolihlahla, Shaker of Trees, will be integrated subtly such that it appears to be virtually floating through the center
of the cube. Spear shafts through the center of the cube will be cast
with a widened section approximately 24 inches tall with the letterform base set 36 inches above the finished slab. The letters will only be legible from a distance. As visitors approach close to the monument Rolihlahla becomes unrecognizable and the visual focus shifts to text describing and marking the significant events of Mandela’s life cast sideways into each of the perimeter shafts, with one event spear, or
176 total events marked.


Rustling like trees in a forest, with the eternal wind, the memorial will chatter for enduring freedom.



Michael LaForte
CEO, Creative Director

12752 Valley View St

Garden Grove, CA 92845



graphic design

experience design

environmental design


sculpture in expansive fields