On Jan. 14, after weeks of collaboration with World Trade Center master planner Daniel Libeskind, the Lower Manhattan Development Corp. unveiled the revised design of  World Trade Center memorial competition winner announced last week. But even the changed version of the original entry, Reflecting Absence, will continue to evolve, said Vartan Gregorian, the spokesman for his fellow competition jurors.

(Photo courtesy of LMDC)

"Reflecting Absence has evolved through months of conversation between the jury and its creators," said Gregorian. "This is why the jury is confident that whatever further issues this memorial may need to address over time, such as artifacts and the narrative history of that day, will be made part of the underground interpretive center planned within the memorial site.

"In this vein, we recommend that the Art Commission of the City of New York advise the Memorial Foundation on how to protect the integrity of the design," Gregorian said. "We do not view our selection of a winner as the end of the memorial. Rather, we see our selection as one more stage of memory."

The 13-member jury picked Reflecting Absence from an initial 5,201 submissions from 63 nations. "Of all the designs submitted," said Gregorian, "we have found that Reflecting Absence...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.

The winning design is by Michael Arad, an architect with the New York City Housing Authority, working with landscape architect Peter Walker, head of the Berkeley, Calif., firm that bears his name.

Gov. George E. Pataki, speaking at a press conference after the unveiling, said the cost of the memorial is as yet unknown. John C. Whitehead, chairman of the LMDC, said more details of the organization of the recently formed World Trade Center Site Memorial Foundation, which will oversee fund-raising, construction and programming, will be made known in coming weeks. He also is confident that the Sept. 11 groundbreaking for the redevelopment would be met.

At a press conference on Jan. 12 in Lower Manhattan, Monica Iken, founder of September’s Mission, announced the launch of a major fund-raising effort for the future memorial. Called the 9/11 Campaign, it is spearheaded by the families of those killed in the terrorist attacks. The campaign's goal is to raise funds required to develop and sustain cultural and educational programming for the memorial. September’s Mission will work cooperatively with the foundation to appropriately direct contributions from the 9/11 Campaign endowment towards program initiatives.

The memorial's design calls for a grove of deciduous trees "interrupted" by two large voids containing recessed pools. The 200-ft-square pools and the ramps around them encompass the footprints of the twin 110-story towers of the 16-acre WTC that was attacked by terrorists who slammed hijacked planes into each tower on Sept. 11, 2001. The memorial will also honor those who died in a terrorist bombing of the basement of the WTC on Feb. 26, 1993. A waterfall outlining the perimeter of each square would feed the pools with a continuous stream.

The memorial plaza would contain rows of deciduous trees, forming informal clusters, clearings and groves. The plaza's surface would contain stone pavers, plantings and low ground cover.

In the concept, each pool has a pair of ramps that lead to the memorial's underground components. Surrounding each pool at the bottom of the ramp, some 30 ft below the surface, is a continuous ribbon of names, in no particular order, of those killed by the terrorists. Firefighters, police and others who died in the line of duty may be differentiated only by their agency's insignia next to their names.

(Photo courtesy of LMDC)

The lack of alphabetization or separate groupings is somewhat controversial. But it was done deliberately, to promote the democratic ideal that no life is more valuable than another, said New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

"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," said Arad, "furthering the sense of loss that they are already suffering."

Arad maintains that the haphazard brutality of the attacks is reflected in the arrangement of names, and that no attempt is made to impose order upon this suffering. 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. It would contain a small dais where visitors can light a candle or leave an artifact in memoriam. Across from the table, a small room would be available for pausing, gathering and memorial services.


Along the western edge of the WTC site, a deep fissure will expose the WTC slurry wall foundation, from plaza level to bedrock. A stairway will provide access.

The entrance to the underground interpretive center, which will contained artifacts such as twisted steel beams, a crushed fire truck and personal effects, will be at bedrock, 70 ft below grade. The center would contain exhibition areas as well as lecture halls and a research library.

A large stone vessel, for unidentified remains will be located at bedrock at the north tower footprint. The centerpiece is a large stone vessel. A ceiling opening will connects this space to the sky above.

The memorial plaza is designed to be a mediating space; it belongs both to the city and to the memorial, say the architects. The plaza is located at street level to allow for its integration into the fabric of the city. "We're trying to keep the tone serious, quiet and respectful," said Walker, but the landscaping will also offer "a dimension of hope" for all visitors.

Libeskind, in his remarks, called the memorial "bold, simple, clear, and a centerpiece of the master plan."

More images and details on the memorial design can be found at www.WTCSiteMemorial.org.