Design Competition

AN INTERNATIONAL DESIGN competition was held in 2003 for selecting the design for a national memorial to remember and honor the people killed in terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 and February 26, 1993. Design submissions totaled 5,201 and were received from 63 nations.

The following excerpt is from the winning design statement of 9/11 Memorial architects Michael Arad and Peter Walker:

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 following excerpt is from the Memorial Jury’s January 2004 statement on selecting the design:

Of all the designs submitted, we have found that "Reflecting Absence" by Michael Arad, in concert with landscape architect Peter Walker, fulfills most eloquently the daunting but absolutely necessary demands of this memorial. In its powerful, yet simple articulation of the footprints of the Twin Towers, "Reflecting Absence" has made the voids left by the destruction the primary symbols of our loss. By allowing absence to speak for itself, the designers have made the power of these empty footprints the memorial. At its core, this memorial is anchored deeply in the actual events it commemorates-connecting us to the towers' destruction, and more important, to all the lives lost on that day….

While the footprints remain empty, however, the surrounding plaza's design has evolved to include beautiful groves of trees, traditional affirmations of life and rebirth. These trees, like memory itself, demand the care and nurturing of those who visit and tend them. They remember life with living forms, and serve as living representations of the destruction and renewal of life in their own annual cycles. The result is a memorial that expresses both the incalculable loss of life and its consoling regeneration.

Members of the Memorial Jury*

Paula Grant Berry, 9/11 Memorial board member, whose husband, died in 2001 attacks
Susan K. Freedman, president of the Public Art Fund
Vartan Gregorian, president of the Carnegie Corporation of New York
Patricia Harris, first deputy mayor of New York City
Maya Lin, world-renowned architect of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington
Michael McKeon, former communications director for Gov. George Pataki of New York
Julie Menin, chairperson of Community Board 1 in lower Manhattan
Enrique Norten, Mexican architect and principal of the design firm TEN Arquitectos
Martin Puryear, acclaimed American sculptor
Nancy Rosen, public art pioneer
Lowery Stokes Sims, curator of Museum of Arts and Design
Michael Van Valkenburgh, New York City landscape artist
James E. Young, professor at the University of Massachusetts

*Biographical information as of 2011