This year marks the 14th anniversary of the September 11th attacks on the United States. We all remember where we were when we heard the news, we’ve all reflected on that day.
There are several memorials all over the world to commemorate the lives of those lost, but the most notable memorials are those at or near the crash sites: the Flight 93 National Memorial in Pennsylvania, the Empty Sky 9/11 memorial in New Jersey, the National 9/11 Memorial at the World Trade Center in New York, and the National 9/11 Memorial at the Pentagon. In addition to all being memorials for the same tragedy, they all use architecture to evoke deep emotion.
The memorials use simplicity of line, geometry, and negative space to convey symbolism. Particularly with the use of negative space, one feels the hole, the missing. The following is an excerpt from the design statement of Michael Arad and Peter Walker. Although they were only the architects of the 9/11 Memorial at the World Trade Center site in New York, their statement seems to convey some of the thought behind the designs for each memorial.
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 are set within 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.
Surrounding the pools on bronze parapets are the names. The enormity of this space and the multitude of names 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 parapet edge is inaccessible.
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.
The way the architecture and design enhances the emotion and the experience of the memorial’s visitors is truly amazing. The story of powerful design is told in ordinary materials: steel, stone, water and trees, becoming an extraordinary, beautiful, thought-provoking tribute to the fallen.
Remember. Never forget.