September 11 Memorials - Architecture of Remembrance

Tributes for Victims of the 9/11 Terrorist Attacks

109 intertwined stainless steel strands in tent-like structure rising 80 feet, lit from within, surrounded by candles
The Rising, 2006, Westchester County, New York.

Julie Dermansky / Corbis via Getty Images

Can stone, steel, or glass convey the horror of September 11, 2001? How about water, sound, and light? The photos in this collection illustrate the many ways architects and designers honor those who died on 9/11 and the heroes who helped with the rescue efforts.

Small communities throughout America have memorials to the innocent victims of 9/11. Towns closer to New York City, however, have felt the loss profoundly. Architect Frederic Schwartz (1951–2014) and designer Jessica Jamroz have collaborated on two well-known memorials in both New York and New Jersey. At the Kensico Dam Plaza in Valhalla, Westchester County, New York, engraved granite stones and a concrete ring brace over 100 stainless steel rods that rise 80 feet into the air, intertwined like DNA to represent the community's loss on 9/11. The Rising was dedicated September 11, 2006 — a local remembrance that enhances the three national 9/11 memorials.

National 9/11 Memorial Museum

people walking down stairs past the salvaged tridents from the destroyed Twin Towers are prominently displayed at the entrance to the National September 11 Memorial Museum

Spencer Platt / Getty Images

Beams salvaged from the ruins of the original World Trade Center twin towers are the focus of the National 9/11 Museum Pavilion at ground zero. The Pavilion is the above-ground portion of the 9/11 Memorial Museum, a complex of memorials that mark the spot where over 2600 people lost their lives. The Pavilion by the architecture firm Snøhetta is an entry to the underground Memorial Museum. The design centers around the trident-shaped columns, which connect the underground slurry wall area, the Survivors' Stairway, and museum artifacts with the glass shard pavilion overlooking the Memorial Plaza. The National September 11 Memorial Museum opened to the public on May 21, 2014.

National 9/11 Memorial Plaza

Aerial view of two square grey pools surrounded by green trees and a white asymmetrical building between the National September 11 Memorial & Museum

Drew Angerer / Getty Images

Plans for the National 9/11 memorial, once known as Reflecting Absence, included basement-level corridors with waterfall views. Today, from overhead, the outline of the original twin towers skyscrapers brought down by terrorists is a haunting site.

In early renderings of Memorial Hall, tumbling waterfalls form liquid walls. Light sparkling through the water illuminates bedrock-level galleries. Designed by Michael Arad with landscape architect Peter Walker, the original plan saw many revisions since it was first presented. A formal ceremony marked the Memorial's completion on September 11, 2011.

National 9/11 Pentagon Memorial

park with bench-like stone structures rising from pools of water, building in background with American flag hanging down the side

Brendan Hoffman / Getty Images

The National 9/11 Pentagon Memorial has 184 illuminated benches made of stainless steel inlaid with granite, one bench for each innocent person who died on September 11, 2001, when terrorists hijacked American Airlines Flight 77 and crashed the plane into the Pentagon building in Arlington, Virginia, near Washington, D.C.

Set in a 1.93-acre lot with clusters of Paperbark Maple trees, the benches rise up out of the ground to form flowing, unbroken lines with pools of light radiating from underneath. The benches are arranged according to the victim's age, from 3 to 71. The terrorists are not included in the death count and do not have memorials.

Each memorial unit is personalized with a victim's name. When a visitor reads the name and looks up to face the flight pattern of the fallen plane, you know that person was on the crashed plane. Read a name and look up to see the Pentagon building, and you know that person worked in the office building.

The highly symbolic area was designed by architects Julie Beckman and Keith Kaseman, with design support from the Buro Happold engineering firm. It opened to the public on September 11, 2008.

The Flight 93 National Memorial

rural setting, platform overlooks field and rock, two women embrace, one woman lays flowers

Jeff Swensen / Getty Images (cropped)

The Flight 93 National Memorial is set on a 2,000-acre site near Shanksville, Pennsylvania, where passengers and crew of United Airlines Flight 93 brought down their hijacked plane and thwarted a fourth terrorist attack. Serene overlooks offer peaceful views of the crash site. The memorial design preserves the beauty of the natural landscape.

Plans for the memorial hit a snag when critics claimed that some aspects of the original design appeared to borrow Islamic shapes and symbolism. The controversy died down after groundbreaking in 2009. The redesign is bold concrete and glass, overlooking a huge rock that covers the impact area.

The Flight 93 National Memorial is the only major 9/11 memorial run by the US Park Service. A temporary memorial area allowed visitors to view the peaceful field for a decade while land rights and design issues were resolved. The first phase of the memorial project opened on September 11, 2011, for the tenth anniversary of the terrorist attacks. The Flight 93 National Memorial Visitor Center and Complex opened on September 10, 2015.

The designers are Paul Murdoch Architects of Los Angeles, California with Nelson Byrd Woltz Landscape Architects of Charlottesville, Virginia. Husband and wife team Paul and Milena Murdoch became famous for their winning 9/11 design, although in southern California the couple is well-known for their designs of civic and public areas, including schools and libraries. The Shanksville project, however, was special. At the 2012 National AIA Convention, Paul Murdoch explained the architect's continued struggle to bring a vision to reality when he said in a video:

" I've seen through the process how powerful a vision can be, and how challenging it can be to carry that vision through a process. And I know every architect out there knows what I'm talking about. That what we do is unreasonable. It's trying to bring something positive through so many barriers to them, that I guess I would just want to tell architects that it's worth it. It's worth that effort."

Postcards Memorial

people standing between two large wing-like structures with New York City skyline in the distance

Gary Hershorn / Getty Images (cropped)

The "Postcards" memorial in Staten Island, New York honors residents who died in the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001.

Formed in the shape of thin postcards, the Staten Island September 11 Memorial suggests the image of outstretched wings. Names of the September 11 victims are engraved on granite plaques engraved with their names and profiles.

The Staten Island September 11 Memorial is set along the North Shore Waterfront with scenic views of the New York Harbor, Lower Manhattan, and the Statue of Liberty. The designer is Masayuki Sono of the New York-based Voorsanger Architects.

Empty Sky Memorial

two steely walls pointing toward the skyline of New York City

Justin Sullivan / Getty Images (cropped)

Architect  Frederic Schwartz and designer Jessica Jamroz teamed up again to win the design competition for the New Jersey 9/11 Memorial. Called Empty Sky, the memorial is located in Jersey City, New Jersey, at Liberty State Park, directly across the Hudson River from the twin tower carnage.

The twin walls of concrete and steel are as long as the twin towers were high, framing the empty area of Lower Manhattan where the skyscrapers once stood. The names of 749 victims are engraved in the brushed stainless steel walls, a memorial tribute to those New Jersey citizens who lost their lives on September 11. The memorial officially opened in September 2011.

Logan Airport 9/11 Memorial

close-up of American flag with glass box memorial in background

Darren McCollester / Getty Images

The day America was attacked in 2001, American Airlines Flight 11 that hit the north tower and United Airlines Flight 175 that hit the south tower both originated at Logan International Airport in Boston, Massachusetts. The loss of airline staff and innocent passengers on those flights is memorialized by The Place of Remembrance, a design by Moskow Linn Architects of Boston. Dedicated in September 2008, the glass cube memorial is continuosly open as a place for reflection.

The Sphere by Fritz Koenig

sculpture of a golden globe set in a city park

Raymond Boyd / Getty Images

The Sphere by German sculptor Fritz Koenig stood in the plaza of the original World Trade Center when the terrorists attacked. Koenig designed the sculpture as a monument to world peace through trade. When terrorists attacked on September 11, 2001, the Sphere was heavily damaged. It was temporarily moved to Battery Park near New York Harbor where it served as a memorial to the 9/11 victims. When Liberty Park was built in 2016 to overlook the rebuilt World Trade Center site, the sculpture was moved again, closer to where it began.

To the Struggle Against World Terrorism

stone memorial, vertical, split with dark-colored sack hanging between

Bennett Raglin / Getty Images

The memorial To the Struggle Against World Terrorism depicts a steel teardrop suspended in a cracked stone column. Russian artist Zurab Tsereteli designed the memorial to honor victims of 9/11. Also known as The Tear of Grief and The Teardrop Memorial, the monument is located on the Peninsula at Bayonne Harbor, New Jersey. It was dedicated on September 11, 2006.

Tribute in Light

New York City skyline at night, two blue beams of light

Drew Angerer / Getty Images

Haunting reminders of the destroyed twin towers are suggested by the City's annual Tribute in Light. The Tribute in Light began in March 2002 as a temporary installation but turned into an annual event to memorialize the victims of the September 11, 2001 attacks and the horror of the events of that day. Dozens of searchlights create two powerful beams that suggest the original twin towers — an architectural presence in Lower Manhattan from 1973 until destroyed by terrorists in 2001.

Many artists, architects, and engineers have contributed to creating the Tribute in Light — a testimony to collaboration and the ongoing use of creative design to memorialize people and the events that happen to us all.

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Craven, Jackie. "September 11 Memorials - Architecture of Remembrance." ThoughtCo, Feb. 16, 2021, Craven, Jackie. (2021, February 16). September 11 Memorials - Architecture of Remembrance. Retrieved from Craven, Jackie. "September 11 Memorials - Architecture of Remembrance." ThoughtCo. (accessed May 12, 2021).