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World Trade Center Memorial

Competition Entry

On September 11, 2001, a handful of terrorists attempted to bring the United States to its knees.  When the towers of the World Trade Center collapsed, the world was momentarily torn apart.  But rising out of that terrible devastation, came an incredible outpouring of love and a renewed sense of community.  In those first weeks after the attacks, everyone in the world was a New Yorker.  This memorial pays homage, not only to the immense loss of life, but to the outpouring of duty, charity and love.  The memorial sits primarily at ground level, on a site dedicated solely to the memory of those who were lost and those who survived.  The memorial must sit at this elevation, not concealed in a deep pit in the ground.  It must be confronted daily, not hidden away, to ensure we never forget. It sits alone on a five acre site dedicated solely to the purpose of remembrance. It cannot be surrounded and lost among statements of architectural ego.  The events of September 11 must be the first charge of the redevelopment of Ground Zero.  The cultural facilities currently planned for this area can be incorporated in the development of the other 10 acres of the property.   This memorial includes several distinct parts: The primary structures of the memorial are two perfect cubes, one per tower footprint, 100 feet to a side, one black and the other white.  These cubes are connected by an underground passage that honors the victims of 9/11. The black cube symbolizes the journey of the individual into the darkness of 9/11.  In this somber space, the unidentified remains of the victims of the New York attack are entombed.  It is a solemn, dark space for individual contemplation, where reflecting pools, both outside and inside the structure, break the paths into narrow walkways that all lead to stairs descending into the earth.  The illumination in this space is dim, primarily coming from 3,022 individual points of light, reflected infinitely in the highly polished black granite of the walls.  Each light stands for a victim of the 1993 bombing of the WTC, its destruction in 2001, the attack on the Pentagon, and the crash of Flight 93 in Pennsylvania. Upon descending into the underground corridor, one enters into the primary memorial for the dead.  Here, in a 350 foot long tunnel, are the names of all of the victims of the attacks.  These names are illuminated from behind, symbolizing the light that they shed on the lives of those around them. When a panel is touched a recording of the victim's name will activate, creating a hall where the names are endlessly repeated, and never forgotten. At the far end of the corridor is light, and as one walks into it, climbing a long flight of stairs, one emerges into a realm of soft white light, filtered through very thin panels of pure white marble.  This space, inside the white cube, is dedicated to the community that came together as one in the days following the tragedy.  It is particularly devoted to the heroes of that time, the firefighters, police, and emergency responders both living and dead, who worked beyond the limits of human endurance to rescue as many people as possible.   Upon emerging from the white cube, one enters into the flag plaza.  In this space hang the 92 flags of the countries, who lost citizens on 9/11.  At the base of each flagpole sits a plaque bearing the number of victims from each country. 
In the center of the site, are two intersecting axes, one creating a plaza that runs at an angle between the two tower footprints and the other running east to west from Downtown to the World Financial Center.  In the center of the plaza is a long reflecting pool that symbolizes the river of life flowing out to join with the sea.  The other axis is dominated by an open, tree-filled park, which represents renewal and hope. In the northeast corner of the site, is the entrance to the museum and archive dedicated to September 11.  Most of this space is located underground, with only a long, thin glass structure emerging above the surface (Figure 9), which will bring light into the below-ground area. Two elements of the Libeskind plan remain in this design -- the two pits that reveal the Bathtub foundation.  Because there is no interference with the PATH train at this location, the north pit, descends to the full depth of the bathtub.  The configuration of this space is designed to impress upon the viewer the awesome scale of these walls. The south pit is shallower due to the PATH train, but larger, and will frame the site on the south and west sides. This memorial will serve as an ongoing time capsule, teaching each new generation about these horrific events, and honor those who made the ultimate sacrifice in these awful assaults on democracy.