Michael Arad, New York, NY and Peter Walker, Berkeley, CA
Statement Illustrations & Models Biography/Credits Animation Original Submission
This memorial proposes a space that resonates with the feelings of loss and absence that were generated by the destruction of the World Trade Center and the taking of thousands of lives on September 11, 2001 and February 26, 1993. It is located in a field of trees that is interrupted by two large voids containing recessed pools. The pools and the ramps that surround them encompass the footprints of the twin towers. A cascade of water that describes the perimeter of each square feeds the pools with a continuous stream. They are large voids, open and visible reminders of the absence.
The surface of the memorial plaza is punctuated by the linear rhythms of rows of deciduous trees, forming informal clusters, clearings and groves. This surface consists of a composition of stone pavers, plantings and low ground cover. Through its annual cycle of rebirth, the living park extends and deepens the experience of the memorial.
Bordering each pool is a pair of ramps that lead down to the memorial spaces. Descending into the memorial, visitors are removed from the sights and sounds of the city and immersed in a cool darkness. As they proceed, the sound of water falling grows louder, and more daylight filters in from below. At the bottom of their descent, they find themselves behind a thin curtain of water, staring out at an enormous pool. Surrounding this pool is a continuous ribbon of names. The enormity of this space and the multitude of names that form this endless ribbon underscore the vast scope of the destruction. Standing there at the water's edge, looking at a pool of water that is flowing away into an abyss, a visitor to the site can sense that what is beyond this curtain of water and ribbon of names is inaccessible.
The names of the deceased will be arranged in no particular order around the pools. After carefully considering different arrangements, I have found that any arrangement that tries to impose meaning through physical adjacency will cause grief and anguish to people who might be excluded from that process, furthering the sense of loss that they are already suffering.
The haphazard brutality of the attacks is reflected in the arrangement of names, and no attempt is made to impose order upon this suffering. The selfless sacrifices of rescue workers could be acknowledged with their agency's insignia next to their names. Visitors to the site, including family members and friends of the deceased, would be guided by on-site staff or a printed directory to the specific location of each name. For those whose deceased were never physically identified, the location of the name marks a spot that is their own.
In between the two pools is a short passageway that links them at this lower level. A single alcove is located along this passageway, containing a small dais where visitors can light a candle or leave an artifact in memory of loved ones. Across from it, in a small chamber, visitors might pause and contemplate. This space provides for gatherings, quiet reflection, and memorial services.
Along the western edge of the site, a deep fissure exposes the slurry wall from plaza level to bedrock and provides access via a stairway. Descending alongside its battered surfaces, visitors will witness the massive expanse of the original foundations. The entrance to the underground interpretive center is located at bedrock. Here visitors could view many preserved artifacts from the twin towers: twisted steel beams, a crushed fire truck, and personal effects. The underground interpretive center would contain exhibition areas as well as lecture halls and a research library.
In contrast with the public mandate of the underground interpretive center is the very private nature of the room for unidentified remains. It is situated at bedrock at the north tower footprint. Here a large stone vessel forms a centerpiece for the unidentified remains. A large opening in the ceiling connects this space to the sky above, and the sound of water shelters the space from the city. Family members can gather here for moments of private contemplation. It is a personal space for remembrance.
The memorial plaza is designed to be a mediating space; it belongs both to the city and to the memorial. Located at street level to allow for its integration into the fabric of the city, the plaza encourages the use of this space by New Yorkers on a daily basis. The memorial grounds will not be isolated from the rest of the city; they will be a living part of it.
Michael Arad and Peter Walker
1 November 2003, Architectural Lighting, pg. 9:
From the more than 5,200 entries for the World Trade Center Memorial Competition, eight finalists have been selected. Unlike the celebrity status of those involved in the site's master plan efforts, these memorials are all the work of young, unknown architects and designers. Since Maya Lin's Vietnam Veteran's memorial redefined the experience of remembrance, the task of creating a memorial has become a more complicated process. Consequently, these eight proposals have generated as many comments as there were entries.
The project titles are revealing: Votives in Suspension, Lower Waters, Passages of Light: Memorial Cloud, Suspending Memory, Garden of Lights, Reflecting Absence, Dual Memory, and Inversion of Light. They suggest that there is a certain standard palette of imagery and materials that best describe a memorial. It is that "sameness" among the proposals that has drawn some of the sharpest criticism in the pages of the New York Times and an open letter from the New York New Visions organization.
31 December 2003, Dow Jones International News:
NEW YORK (AP) - The jury selecting a memorial for the World Trade Center site is leaning toward two favorites, the New York Times reported in its Wednesday editions.
The 13-member jury favors "Garden of Lights" and "Passages of Light: the Memorial Cloud," and could also consider "Reflecting Absense," the report said, citing people involved in the process.
A third possible contender, "Reflecting Absence" by Michael Arad, has pine trees and a paved stone field leading to two pools of water 30 feet below street level, the report said.
The Lower Manhattan Development Corp. has said the jury would choose a design in January.
7 January 2004, Associated Press Newswires by Amy Westfeldt:
NEW YORK (AP) - Before he became the designer of the World Trade Center memorial, former Georgia Tech architecture student Michael Arad's best-known works were for less emotional structures -- two New York City police stations.
The 31-year-old Israeli native's plan was chosen by a 13-member jury that said its two reflecting pools of water to mark the trade center towers' footprints "has made the gaping voids left by the towers' destruction the primary symbol of loss."
"Reflecting Absence," created by Arad and San Francisco architect Peter Walker, had plenty of critics, including family members who said that the design didn't help people understand the attack that destroyed the trade center.
"None of the designs are up to par," said Anthony Gardner, a member of a coalition for Sept. 11 family groups. "They don't communicate the enormity."
But Daniel Libeskind, the architect who designed the master plan for the 16-acre site, called Arad's design "an idea that is simple, that is bold."
30 March 2005, Buffalo News, "State Site Opens Display of 'Reflecting Absence'" by Tom Buckham, pg. B1:
More than a year after "Reflecting Absence" was unveiled in New York City, area residents are getting their first look at the planned memorial to victims of the 2001 terrorist attack, to be built where the World Trade Center stood.
The traveling exhibit opened Monday and will be on display during state business hours through April 7 in the Mahoney State Office Building on Court Street. It includes a white tabletop model of the three-level memorial, along with 10 artists' renditions. Gov. George E. Pataki and the architects explain the $500 million project via video.
"Reflecting Absence" will honor the memory of the nearly 3,000 people killed on 9/11 in the twin towers in lower Manhattan, as well as six victims of the 1993 terrorist bombing there.