My trip to New York included a visit to the to 9/11 Memorial. As stated on the website, the memorial is “A national tribute of remembrance and honor to the men, women and children killed in the terror attacks of September 11, 2001 and February 26, 1993.” At its most essential level, it is a space rooted in tragedy and loss and remembrance. But it also is a positive space, in harmony with the modern urban landscape, the changes happening as the area is rebuilt, and a prototype for ways to think about public urban spaces for the future.
The memorial is located on the World Trade Center complex, and occupies a large portion of the original site. It is anchored by two large square waterfalls and reflecting pools, each approximately the size and location of the footprints of the original twin towers.
In this photo, one can see how the pools are situated with respect to the other architectural features of the landscape. Behind this pool on the footprint of the original south tower are (from left to right), the existing buildings from the World Financial Center in Battery Park City, the new One World Trade Center building still under construction, and the September 11 Museum (also still under construction).
At the center of each reflecting pool is a dark square hole whose bottom cannot be seen from the sides and into which water from the pool falls.
The trees visible in the above photo are swamp oaks, and form an important part of the memorial. Although orange and rather spare in late November, they form a green canopy that will shade much of the space during the spring and summer and add a sense of life to the space. They are also an integral part of the green design, with the shade helping to reduce stress and energy on the underground parts of the complex (including the major transit hub at the site). Conversely, the paved walkways are designed in such a way as to support the trees and not put undue stress on them or their roots (visit the website for more detail on how that works).
The sides of pools are lined with bronze onto which are inscribed the names of all the people who died in the attacks on September 11, 2001, as well as the six people who died in an earlier attack on the World Trade Center in 1993.
It is somewhat reminiscent of the names on the Vietnam Memorial in Washington, DC, and indeed I did see some people making rubbings of particular names.
The architecture of the pools, with the concentric squares and footprints, grounds the memorial in the architecture of the original site. The museum facade also takes on elements from the long lines of glass and steel structure of the original towers. Even the cascading water into the pools seems to have been designed to reflect the original architecture. The pattern of the water as it cascades over the edge strongly reminds me of the two-story lobbies of the original towers.
Visits to the memorial is still very controlled, and one has to book passes for a particular date and time well in advance. But we were able to get a good time during what is presumably a busy week. I am glad I had a chance to visit at this time, with the overall site still in progress. I would like to see it again in the future as the buildings and the museum move forward.