Volume 16 • Issue 38 | February 20 - 26, 2004



5,201 memorial ideas released —Selected plan criticized by L.M.D.C. member

By Josh Rogers

W.T.C. memorial designs by Diego Aguilera of Rego Park, N.Y. above, Hans Haacke of Manhattan, below, and Magid Fawzi of Egypt, left.

An Egyptian proposed a gigantic question mark at a Twin Tower footprint to symbolize questions like “who did that?” Someone from Jordan said he used to be a religious fundamentalist and he submitted a World Trade Center memorial design because he wanted to warn that fundamentalism kills “indiscriminately and on a massive scale.” Artist Tom Otterness, whose distinctive style can be seen in places like Battery Park City and the 14th St. subway station, proposed a giant sculpture over the area where the towers once stood.

Those were three of the 5,201 memorial submissions that the Lower Manhattan Development Corp. made available to the public online on Thursday (www.wtcsitememorial.org at the exhibitions link).

The same day the plans were released, coincidentally, Tom Johnson, a member of the L.M.D.C. board whose son was killed on Sept. 11 and who helped set the guidelines for the memorial, criticized the selected design by Michael Arad and Peter Walker because he feels it strays from the idea of treating every person who was killed equally.

Johnson, 63, said the Arad-Walker plan is contrary to the prohibition against creating a hierarchy of victims because it calls for a shield number near the names of the uniformed officers who were killed in the attack.

“In my personal opinion it does not square with the resolution,” said Johnson, whose son, Scott M. Johnson, 26, was killed at the W.T.C. He spoke during the L.M.D.C.’s monthly board meeting Feb. 19.

Immediately after the meeting, Johnson, chairperson and C.E.O. of GreenPoint Bank, said: “It’s not the appropriate way to display the names…. This was an attack on America, not on one particular group…. It’s not appropriate to express any differences with the way the names are displayed.”

He said he spoke to Arad about his concerns and continues to have private conversations with officials in the hope that the design, which was selected in January, can be changed.

L.M.D.C. leaders were skeptical the name listing would be altered.

John Whitehead, L.M.D.C. chairperson, said there can be honest differences of opinions on how to interpret the hierarchy provision, but given that there is a selected design and that Mayor Mike Bloomberg has spoken so clearly about keeping the name display the way it is proposed, a change is not under consideration.

“The board passed a resolution saying there are no hierarchies,” said Whitehead, who was sitting near Johnson. “The mayor has subsequently said it’s final.”

When Arad unveiled his design of reflecting pools at the footprints in January, he said the most difficult issue he dealt with was how to display the names — because many relatives of firefighters and police officers wanted their loved ones’ sacrifice to be recognized, but other family members wanted to make sure it was clear that every life lost had equal value.

“This is something I struggled with for a long time because whatever way you do it, it satisfies some, but causes pain and anguish to others,” Arad said then.

John Finucane, who is leading the fight to have uniformed officers listed together by precinct, unit or firehouse, said he was not surprised to hear about Johnson’s recent comments.

“That’s what this man has always been for,” Finucane, a retired fire lieutenant, said. “He’s against any acknowledgement of anything.”

Finucane said he is not concerned whether or not the shield is included, but if the plan were to keep the names listed randomly, removing the shield would add insult to injury,

“Taking away the insignia and doing nothing for the uniformed officers would be a terrible disgrace to these brave mean and women who gave their lives so that thousands could live,” he said.

James Young, one of the 13 jurors who picked the Arad-Walker plan, said the designers need to continue to work to find a way to display the shields without diminishing the value of all of the lives.

“It has to be done in a way so that it is not interpreted in a hierarchical way – that’s difficult,” Young said in a telephone interview. “I believe it can be done.”

When Young and his colleagues picked eight possible memorial designs including Arad’s, they released a statement thanking the L.M.D.C. for agreeing to display all 5,201 submissions. Young said he was glad about the online release, but he still wants to see a physical exhibit.

“We all still want it done, but finding the space is a problem,” said Young. “I’m sure they will eventually be physically on display one way or another.”

Kevin Rampe, president of the L.M.D.C., said he has not given up on an exhibit, but if it’s done, it will probably be in several locations or over a long period of time. It would likely include multiple venues or multiple periods of time.”

Another juror, Julie Menin, said the online effort was “a good first step” but it was important to also make the submissions available to people who don’t have computers. “I’m hoping they will do a physical display of them so the public can understand the depth and breadth of the submissions,” she said.

For those who have a computer, the exhibit is an efficient way to see what the jurors first saw last year. Web surfers can type in a last name to see a particular designer, or can search entries by nation or by American state.

In addition to Otterness, other notables who entered included conceptual artist Hans Haacke and subway gunman Bernard Goetz, who proposed rebuilding a safer better version of the Twin Towers.

Haacke’s design included spontaneous plant growth on the South Tower footprint with soil brought by family members, and an area on the North footprint where visitors could deposit pebbles.

Architects Frank Gehry and Philip Johnson were part of a prominent list of people who did not submit designs. The jurors did not know the names of the applicants until after they had narrowed the field down to the finalists.

The only Islamic and Arab nations where citizens submitted entries were Egypt, home to a few of the 9/11 hijackers, and Jordan.

Mahmoud Riad of Egypt designed his memorial around the theme of a hand. He said in addition to symbolizing the acts of “the terrorists and evildoers” it also represented the heroic helping hands from firefighters and police officers.

Barbara Zolusky of Salem, Conn., told the jurors that she was not an architect or engineer but hoped they would select her idea to incorporate the towers’ steel facades and find someone to do the detailed design work. Many of the submissions included part of the facade. Zolusky drew three facade towers – two with American flags and one with a globe.

“With each picture I saw of the steel beams standing tall, I began to wonder about a memorial that might be erected for those who had lost their lives on 9/11,” Zolusky wrote to the jury.

Instead, the jury went with Arad, an architect with the city Housing Authority, and Walker, a landscape architect.

Josh@DowntownExpress.com


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