Tuesday, 30 August 2011

Open the Void

It is ten years since the 9/11 attacks in New York in 2001. Quite a lot has happened in the mean time and something unbelievable has become accepted as part of lives that will go on. The attacks with two passenger panes crashed into the World Trade Center at the heart of Manhattan brought with them many changes of perspective in the way cities are viewed.

A memorial is going to be opened at the site on 09/11 this September. It is part of the ten year anniversary. After a lot of discussion and back and forward there is not going to a new tower or set of towers but a garden with two fountains. The two sunken fountains are designed by architect Michael Arad and landscape architect Peter Walker.

A animation rendering of the project can be fond over at Dezeen. It is a flight through showing some context and some details.

As a place of remembering this will serve the public with a museum and a visitor centre. No doubt it will become an attraction in Manhattan and indeed a very welcome space. It is a place for families to remember but also for office workers to eat their sandwich. As any urban space it is multifunctional. In this respect the design could probably become quite successful.

The design is built around the two footprints of the towers. The two wholes in the ground are transformed into waterfalls within a forest of trees. As Rowan Moore points out in a article for the Guardian, the design uses materials of commemoration – water, stone, trees, bronze.

9/11 Memorial Fountain
Image taken from nyctrip / Memorial fountain at the 9/11 memorial in New York with broze plates and engraved names.

Another one of the very important elements that are from the original site is the Vesey Street Stairway, practically the only remains above ground. It will feature as an element in the exhibition directly at the entrance.

Memorials are not any more as much in fashion as they used to be. Remembering is not something that fits into a busy dynamic and smooth society. The function of memorials changes as the events move into the distance. In the best case they become landmarks as an integrative part of the individual mental map and a point of orientation for visitors.

Cénotaphe a Newton Boullee
Image taken from 911memorial / Vesey Street Stairway as it will be integrated with the museum.

This is not at all a negative thing, but actually the way the city and its places can live, if people can connect to it and project their visions onto it. Memorials are with their 'non-function' the perfect place for this and have the potential to become essential anchor points for identity and place-making.

The site works as a cenotaph similar to the one placed outside Whitehall in London. However is quite a lot bigger as the entire site is the monument. In this respect it remains more of the project for the Newtown memorial by Étienne-Louis Boullée, Cénotaphe a Newton (1784).

The 9/11 site is massive and the memorial to be opened is at a very large scale. It is both, two sculptures and a park in one. Were otherwise a park has a place for a memorial, that is maybe a statue or a plate. Over time we wil see if this nationally styled function is actually functioning as it is designed.

Cénotaphe a Newton Boullee
Image taken from Wikimedia / Boullée, ''Cénotaphe a Newton'', 1784.

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