How Did the National 9/11 Memorial Come About?

Michael Arad's 9/11 Memorial with One World Trade Center (1WTC) in the background
9/11 Memorial designed by Israeli architect Michael Arad, with One World Trade Center (1WTC) in the background. Photo by RIEGER Bertrand / hemis.fr/hemis.fr/Getty Images
01
of 14

WTC Memorial Design Competition

Top half of Poster Submission 790532, Michael Arad's proposal for Reflecting Absence
Eight Finalists in 2003 Top half of Poster Submission 790532, Michael Arad's proposal for Reflecting Absence. Submission 790532 courtesy Lower Manhattan Development Corporation, informational use, cropped

Plans for a memorial at Ground Zero in New York City evolved slowly over many years. This gallery of photos includes sketches, models, and renderings dating back to the earliest proposals for the project, plus photos of the completed 9/11 Memorial.

The competition to design a memorial honoring those who died in the terrorist attacks at the New York World Trade Center inspired an astonishing 5,201 proposals—most from non-experts who desired to express their feelings about the losses. Israeli-American architect Michael Arad submitted the winning proposal.

In May 2003, 13,683 people from all over the world had registered for a chance to submit a design.  During June 2003, each registered participant could submit a single poster board design concept. The 13-member jury evaluated each anonymous submission and chose eight. The eight finalists were then identified by name and given the opportunity to further develop the design in a short period of time.

Eight Finalists in the National 9/11 Memorial Design Competition:

The selected memorial design finalists included votive lights over a reflecting pool, an inclined park that would slope 30 feet below street level, a blue light shining up into the sky, and an open-air structure with a glass walkway. The eight finalists were:

Not on the list? The "Twin Piers" Memorial, conceived by architect and writer Fred Bernstein. Bernstein's concept was eliminated from consideration on a technicality and, apparently, due to a mix-up. Only one entry was permitted and Bernstein mistakenly submitted two. Still, many are saying that the "Twin Piers" design was too wonderful to pass up. Two piers would extend into New York Harbor the exact length of the destroyed Twin Towers: 1368 feet for Tower One and 1362 feet for Tower Two. Each pier would be divided into 110 "floors" inscribed with the story of what happened there and the names of those who died.

The Winning Entry:

Memorial designs by the eight finalists were on public view at the nearby World Financial Center in Lower Manhattan. Michael Arad's Reflecting Absence was chosen in January 2004.

The winning design for the National 9/11 Memorial was to be incorporated into the World Trade Center Master Plan, a competition that had already been won by Daniel Libeskind. The Master Plan finalists are discussed in 7 Buildings You Won't See at Ground Zero.

02
of 14

Michael Arad's Early Model

Early Model of Reflecting Absence: A Memorial at the World Trade Center Site by Michael Arad
Early Model of Reflecting Absence: A Memorial at the World Trade Center Site by Michael Arad. Photo by Lower Manhattan Development Corp. Handout/Getty Images News/Getty Images (cropped)

Michael Arad's initial proposal for the National 9/11 Memorial did not have borders surrounding the reflecting pools. Instead, wedges on two sides of each pool united the sunken waterfalls. In the final plan for the World Trade Center site, a tree-lined plaza designed by landscape architect Peter Walker.envelopes the area designed by Michael Arad. Architect Daniel Libeskind adapted his Master Plan for Ground Zero to accommodate the memorial plaza proposed by Arad and Walker.

 

03
of 14

Overhead View of the National 9/11 Memorial

Early Plans for the Reflecting Absence Memorial Aerial View of the World Trade Center Memorial as planned in 2004
Early Plans for the Reflecting Absence Memorial Aerial View of the World Trade Center Memorial as planned in 2004. Photo handout by Lower Manhattan Development Corporation/Getty Images News/Getty Images (cropped)

This aerial view is a rendering of the architects' vision for a September 11 memorial.

Architect Michael Arad worked with landscape architect Peter Walker for several years to develop a design for the National 9/11 Memorial. Their plans were revised many times, but the original concept remains: waterfalls tumble into a void, symbolizing all that was lost in the terrorist attacks.

04
of 14

Sectional View of the North Pool

Sectional View of the North Pool, December 23, 2004
Sectional View of the North Pool, December 23, 2004. Renderings by Jock-Potte/Esto / Courtesy of the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation (cropped)

The architects presented this model to illustrate the design of waterfalls and subterranean galleries at the September 11 Memorial.

This sectional model shows the architects' plan for the northern waterfalls at the proposed "Reflecting Absence" memorial on Ground Zero.

 

05
of 14

Reflecting Absence Memorial Hall

Reflecting Absence Memorial Hall, 2003 Plan by Michael Arad
Underground Gallery at the September 11 Memorial Reflecting Absence Memorial Hall, 2003 Plan by Michael Arad. Photo handout by Lower Manhattan Development Corp./Getty Images News/Getty Images (cropped)

This early plan for the National 9/11 Memorial shows underground corridors winding past waterfalls. When architect Michael Arad first drafted ideas for his September 11 memorial, Reflecting Absence, he imagined water cascading into deep pools. Underground galleries would open to views of the waterfalls.

Some critics protested the idea of memorializing the dead in a subterranean gallery. This plan, presented in 2003, underwent many changes.

06
of 14

Subterranean Gallery at Memorial Hall

Proposal for a subterranean gallery at the National 9/11 Memorial
Proposal for a subterranean gallery at the National 9/11 Memorial. Rendering by DBox / Courtesy of the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation

After several revisions, architects Michael Arad and Peter Walker presented this plan for the underground space at the Reflecting Absence memorial. In this rendering, cascades from overhead waterfalls glistening walls in the rooms beneath the National 9/11 Memorial.

The marketing and branding agency DBOX was called upon to produce high quality graphics to visually present the project to stakeholders.

07
of 14

Exposed Slurry Wall

The Below-Ground Slurry Wall Became Incorporated Into the Memorial and Museum Design
The Below-Ground Slurry Wall Became Incorporated Into the Memorial and Museum Design. Photo by Chris Hondros / Getty Images News / Getty Images (cropped)

Before the original Twin Towers were built, concrete slabs held back the water of the Hudson River. As a memorial, the slurry wall was incorporated into the subterranean design.

The slurry wall was a functional structure never meant to be seen. Amidst controversy and debate, architects and planners decided to leave an exposed portion of the wall to honor the buildings that were destroyed in the 2001 terrorist attacks.

The National September 11 Memorial Museum, which contains the slurry wall, opened to the public May 21, 2014.

08
of 14

Three-Dimensional Architecture

South Reflecting Pool Under Construction in 2010 at the World Trade Center Construction Site
South Reflecting Pool Under Construction in 2010 at the World Trade Center Construction Site. Photo by James Leynse / Corbis Historical / Getty Images (cropped)

The interesting aspect of Michael Arad's design for the 9/11 National Memorial is the use of space for each reflecting pool. Not only are the width and length dimensions symbolic—they are the footprints of the Twin Towers that were brought down by terrorists—but the reflecting pools have depth, starting with panels of names of the victims, sliding down waterfalls to pools, and disappearing into the earth below. The National 9/11 Museum designed by Davis Brody Bond is below ground, where the slurry wall is. The access to the museum is the aboveground Pavilion designed by the Norwegian team at Snøhetta. Michael Arad's designed reflecting pools are both aboveground and below ground. Landscape architect Peter Walker and his California-based PWP Landscape Architecture brought together the aboveground architecture.

Planning and coordination are what take time, if done correctly.

09
of 14

The Finished Elements

Bronze Panels are Backlit to Illuminate the Names of Terror Victims
Bronze Panels are Backlit to Illuminate the Names of Terror Victims. Photo by Seth Wenig-Pool/Getty Images News/Getty Images (cropped)

The finished reflecting pools of the National 9/11 Memorial show the levels of architectural detail in Michael Arad's design. Bronze panels of names from both attacks on the Twin Towers (February 26, 1993 and September 11, 2001) are prominent, especially at night as soft yellow light shines through each letter of each name.

10
of 14

September 11 Museum Pavilion

The Snohetta-Designed Pavilion Entry to the National 9/11 Museum Reflects Arad's Transparent Memorial Design
The Snohetta-Designed Pavilion Entry to the National 9/11 Museum Reflects Arad's Transparent Memorial Design. Press photo courtesy Snohetta, Danish Architecture Centre, June 1, 2015 (cropped)

Visitors to the National 9/11 Museum enter through a 15,000-square-foot pavilion designed by the Norwegian architecture firm, Snøhetta. The September 11 Museum Pavilion is a soaring glass atrium that displays the trident-shaped columns salvaged from the original World Trade Center towers.

The atrium leads to an underground memorial museum with September 11 artifacts, such as the Survivors' Stairway. The historic Vesey Street Stair Remnant known as the Survivors' Stairs, a vital route to safety during the 9/11 attacks, was placed in the memorial museum site December 2008.

The National September 11 Memorial Museum opened to the public May 21, 2014.

11
of 14

Dedication of the National 9/11 Memorial

New York City Police Officer Danny Shea, a military vet, salutes at the North pool of the 9/11 Memorial during the tenth anniversary ceremonies of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks at the World Trade Center site, September 11, 2011 in New York City
Ten Years After the Terrorist Attacks, the Dedication of the National 9/11 Memorial. Photo by David Handschuh-Pool/Getty Images News/Getty Images

On September 11, 2011, the tenth anniversary of the terrorist attacks, the National 9/11 Memorial was the officially dedicated.

 

12
of 14

The Completed National 9/11 Memorial

Overhead photograph of National September 11 Memorial and Museum, September 2016
National September 11 Memorial and Museum, September 2016. Photo by Drew Angerer / Getty Images News / Getty Images

The north pool (top) will naturally receive more traffic than the south pool (bottom). It is near the Transportation Hub (right) and the largest building at the World Trade Center site, 1WTC. The thinning of trees in that area is the perfect design by landscape architect Peter Walker. As the trees grow and fill out, vegetation will form a softness to the stone and metal and water memorials.

13
of 14

The National 9/11 Memorial Waterfall

Waterfalls Gush Into Granite Pools, Part of the National 9/11 Memorial in New York City
Waterfalls Gush Into Granite Pools, Part of the National 9/11 Memorial in New York City. Photo by Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images News / Getty Images (cropped)

Rushing water at the National Memorial captures sunlight and rainbows. What cannot be captured in still photographs, however, is the sound. With four sides to two memorial pools, a total of eight waterfalls provide a continuous natural sound that drowns out idle chatter, allowing individuals to better focus on their meditative grief. The sustained sound provides an everlasting remembrance fitting for a national memorial.

14
of 14

Architects of the National 9/11 Memorial

Landscape Architect Peter Walker (left) and Design Architect Michael Arad (right) in 2004
Landscape Architect Peter Walker (left) and Design Architect Michael Arad (right) in 2004. Photo by James Leynse / Corbis Historical / Getty Images

The best architecture—like music or literature—often appears to be simple. A certain elegance can be demonstrated by a lack of ornamentation and a reliance on natural elements. This is the art of the architect. And only after thoughtful examination can the casual observer appreciate the complexity of simplicity.

Format
mla apa chicago
Your Citation
Craven, Jackie. "How Did the National 9/11 Memorial Come About?" ThoughtCo, Feb. 19, 2017, thoughtco.com/designs-for-911-memorial-4065284. Craven, Jackie. (2017, February 19). How Did the National 9/11 Memorial Come About? Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/designs-for-911-memorial-4065284 Craven, Jackie. "How Did the National 9/11 Memorial Come About?" ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/designs-for-911-memorial-4065284 (accessed November 22, 2017).