Volume 20, Number 47 | The Newspaper of Lower Manhattan | November 17 - 23, 2010
Downtown Express photo by Aline Reynolds
Michael Arad, lead designer for the 9/11 National Memorial.
Hudson inspired memorial
BY Aline Reynolds
Water began trickling down into one of the 9/11 Memorial’s two reflecting pools last week, marking another milestone for the site since construction began in 2006. The 9/11 Memorial team started testing out water circulation at what will be the largest manmade waterfalls in the country.
“It’s not been done for this scale [elsewhere],” explained Joe Daniels, President of the National September 11 Memorial and Museum. “We wanted to start working out the kinks now.”
Bronze panels carrying the names of the 2,982 victims that died in the 1993 and 2001 W.T.C. terror attacks will surround the pools. The memorial’s lead designer, Michael Arad, spoke to a small group of 9/11 family members, friends and others at the 9/11 Memorial Preview Site last Thursday about the painstaking process of deciding on the order in which the names will appear.
Letters were mailed out to close to 3,000 families for feedback. Around 1,000 responded with a host of different requests.
“What we ended up doing is we arranged people by where they were at the time of the attack – which tower, and what flight,” Arad said.
Arad visits the site weekly to oversee the ongoing construction. When he isn’t there, he monitors the construction from a web cam perched atop the nearby Millennium Hilton hotel.
He also talked about the origins of his design, “Reflecting Absence,” which was selected in 2004 from 5,201 entries representing 63 countries. The designer reflected back to the months following the 9/11 attacks, when he would stroll past De Robertis bakery in the East Village daily and notice a decorative cake sitting in the window. “What I did in my own way with my own tools, was similar to what this baker did with the tools at his disposal,” he said.
He also derived inspiration from an abandoned field in South Orange, New Jersey. “It had a sense of ruin, rubble, but also rebirth with the plants and the water that kind of sparked my imagination,” he said.
During his free time, Arad began sketching ideas for a memorial, without any idea of what it would lead to. “With no expectation of ever winning this competition, I just decided to go through that exercise,” he said. “It was very cathartic for me. I started to think about voids in the Hudson River — this idea of the surface of the river cut open, and the water disappearing into that cut.”
He later entered his sketches into the design competition. The group was eventually narrowed down to eight finalists and Arad then began to craft a model of his design.
Arad compared the future waterfalls at the memorial to those located on the west side of the World Financial Center, by the North Cove Marina. “We never wanted to create a torrent like Niagara Falls. We wanted to create something that would compliment the void and not obscure it and not be too loud, either.”
Arad saw water on the site for the first time last Thursday.
“To think these massive pools start with a little pump that fit in the palm of my hands is incredible to me,” he said.
The opening date for the memorial is just under 10 months away. Joe Daniels, President of the National September 11 Memorial and Museum, assured everyone that the memorial would be completed in time for the tenth anniversary. “Although people want it done fast, fast, fast — [the tenth year anniversary] feels right to us to open the memorial,” Daniels said, adding that the project is prioritized by all the W.T.C. stakeholders. “I’m very optimistic that on the tenth anniversary we’ll have a memorial that we can all be proud of,” he said.
The memorial site went through several iterations: the current plan calls for four quadrants of the 16-acre site with the 8-acre memorial being the largest.
Daniels said that, moving forward, he doesn’t foresee obstacles that would delay the memorial’s opening. “Everyone is going to ensure this memorial opens,” he said. “I don’t think success is built in, I think the guys on the site are working hard every day to get this done and that’s going to make the difference.”