From left: WWII Camp Wall Committee members Kay Oda, Nancy Oda and Nancy Hayata with Paul Saito


Members of the WWII Camp Wall Committee met with Paul Saito of Saito Associates-Landscape Architects on Dec. 27 at Columbia Park in Torrance.

Columbia Park is the proposed location for the memorial that will hold walls of granite for each of the WWII incarceration camps. The various walls will list the names of each person that was incarcerated there.

The 52-acre Columbia Park was built in 1983 and redesigned by Saito in 1984. In 1985, the California Landscape Contractors Association awarded him with an achievement award for the design and installation of the park.

Saito now calls Fresno home, and is noted there for development of the Shinzen Friendship Garden. He also designed the Fresno Assembly Center Memorial at the Fresno Fairgrounds, and Remembrance Plaza at the Pinedale Assembly Center, where people of Japanese ancestry were incarcerated before being transferred to more permanent internment camps.

He is very familiar with the camp experience, having been sent himself to the Santa Anita Assembly Center under Executive Order 9066, then to Rohwer War Relocation Center in Arkansas during WWII.

Paul Saito looking at Columbia Park for the first time in over 35 years.

When the committee contacted Saito, he was eager to volunteer his services and work with the current architect, Gregg Maedo + Associates, and Maedo’s proposed memorial design. After visiting with his daughter in Long Beach, Saito stopped by to see Columbia Park after over 35 years. His reaction: “It’s much bigger than I remember it.”

The committee is working to bring their project full-circle for Saito. He will be working on more detailed memorial design concepts, and their hopes are to have him one day landscape the memorial grounds.

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