Volume 16 • Issue 32 | January 9 - 15, 2004


The jury’s memorial choice

The 13 jurors convened by the Lower Manhattan Development Corp. to pick a design for the World Trade Center memorial first of all deserve praise. A group of accomplished people in a variety of fields came together, found themselves in the middle of a contentious fight, narrowed 5,201 ideas down to eight, then three and then one earlier this week.

Yes, the public’s disappointment over the eight designs was understandable and justified. But there were good ideas in the eight plans and had the jury or the L.M.D.C. succumbed to the pressure to go back and start again, it would have been a terrible setback to the process. We are pleased that the jury has picked a design and has asked for the right adjustments.

Reflecting Absence by Michael Arad, an architect with the city’s Housing Authority, who has now partnered with landscape architect Peter Walker, was too stark in its original form. The addition of, as juror Vartan Gregorian put it, a “teeming groves of trees,” should be an improvement.

Of the eight designs, we saw the most promise in Garden of Lights, which included an apple orchard on a street-level plaza. The Twin Tower footprints under that plan would have been prairies with a different gardener and look each year. The plan also had problems, which is why we stopped short of recommending it. We thought the jury should ask the designers for significant changes and give the plan serious consideration. The jury did precisely that and concluded, apparently, that the problems had not been solved.

The call for more trees in Reflecting Absence sounds like it was right on target and is in effect a plea to make Reflecting a little more like Garden. Arad’s design is a better choice than the third finalist, the Memorial Cloud, a translucent sculpture. The connection to the events of Sept. 11 was far less clear with the design for Memorial Cloud.

Reflecting’s two voids in the shape of the Twin Towers with the cascading water flowing down could indeed turn out to be a powerful memorial. The danger is that the voids so dominate the plaza that the memorial overwhelms the other uses for the W.T.C. site. The addition of trees, and according to our sources, the return of cultural buildings to the memorial plan should prevent that from happening. The movement of the cultural building to somewhere other than West St. also appears to be sound.

Changing the plan to include a way to get to part of the site’s bedrock is also an important change as is making the slurry wall visible. We hope that the wall remains covered up at street level on West St. so as to allow more room for open space and whatever the most sensible traffic plan for West St. turns out to be.

And although this jury does not appear to like the idea, we would like to see more of the remains of the W.T.C. return to the memorial, not just the future W.T.C. museum.

We are glad the chosen plan has a plaza that should be able to connect the W.T.C. to the adjacent neighborhoods, that it honors the innocent lives that we lost, and that it appears to be getting better. We look forward to seeing the changes next week and are thankful we now have a memorial plan.

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