Design and Adversity – The 9/11 Memorial
Fall is upon us, almost….what will September bring?
We”ve all witnessed a lot of change this summer; and for those of us living in New England, we”ve seen weather-related “events” that we don”t often experience – tornadoes, tropical storms. We are lucky in our small town in the Amherst, MA area, to have been spared the worst of these events.
There is much change and strife throughout the world; there are so many people who are suffering and will continue to face adversity.
I”ve been thinking about the role design can have in helping people recover from adversity; whether natural or man-made disasters, or just how we can make our own lives more fulfilling, and how that can help us, help others.
9/11 Memorial – Aerial View – with Reflecting Pools and Waterfalls
The Memorial will be dedicated first, with the Museum to follow in a year. Of course, each person who visits the space will interpret for him or herself how he or she feels experiencing it; invariably there will be people who are highly critical, as well as those who feel a real connection to the design.
Michael Arad, (in the picture to the left) is the architect of the Memorial and he calls it “Reflecting Absence.” He was chosen to design the space, competing with 5200 entrants. His design underwent a number of iterations, and the final design was a result of a collaboration with Peter Walker, a California landscape architect.
“We think of these as spaces for frivolous recreation, where you hang out,” Arad said of spots such as Central Park or Union Square. “But after the attacks, they became places where we created a sense of community. They didn”t just bring us together physically. They brought us together emotionally.”
One sleepless night shortly after the attacks, Arad found himself in one such space — Washington Square Park in Manhattan”s Greenwich Village — along with hundreds of other strangers. They had all converged for an impromptu candlelight vigil.
For Arad, who was then 32, the sight of city dwellers famous for thick skins and icy stares coming together to share their grief and support one another was an epiphany. He was driven to show that even cranky, crowded Manhattan had the room — and the need — for a place of quiet contemplation. A sort of “urban living room,” said Arad, who grew up in Israel and spent a year as a ski bum in Colorado before settling on architecture over his original career choice, law.
“It was important for me not to make it solely a memorial spot, but to make it a part of the city,” said Arad. “I didn”t want this to become a place that reflected self-pity, because I didn”t see that in any way in New York. What I saw in New York was the best of humanity and quiet determination not to let this attack change who we are. I wanted to bring that to this memorial.”
Another important component of the design is the inclusion of the names of those who perished in the attacks, again, from the www.911memorial.org web-site:
“The nearly 3,000 names of the men, women, and children killed in the attacks of September 11, 2001, and February 26, 1993, are inscribed into bronze parapets surrounding the 9/11 Memorial’s twin pools, set within the footprints of the original twin towers. The arrangement of names will be made available at 911memorial.org, through an interactive smart phone application and on kiosk directories located on the 9/11 Memorial Plaza.”