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Tuesday, January 06, 2004

And the winner is . . . . Reflecting Absence

by architect Michael Arad and landscape architect Peter Walker

Note: The renderings, animations and descriptions do not reflect significant changes made to the design, which will be unveiled next week.

This design proposes a space that resonates with the feelings of loss and absence that were generated by the death and destruction at the World Trade Center. A pair of reflective pools marks the location of the towers' footprints. The surface of these pools is broken by large voids. These voids can be read as containers of loss, being close-by yet inaccessible.

The pools are submerged thirty feet below street level in the middle of a large open plaza. They too are large voids, open and visible reminders of the absence. The pools are fed by a constant stream of water, cascading down the walls which enclose them. Bordering each pool is a pair of sloped buildings. These buildings create a sense of enclosure, capturing the exposed outer corners of the memorial site and defining a path of circulation around each pool. They also guide visitors to the site into the memorial itself.

Visitors begin their descent into the memorial by entering one of these buildings. This descent removes them from the sights and sounds of the city and immerses them in a cool darkness. As they gradually proceed, step by step, the sound of water falling grows louder, and more daylight filters in from below. At the bottom of their descent, they find themselves behind a thin curtain of water, staring out at an enormous pool that flows endlessly towards a central void that remains empty. A ribbon of names surrounds this pool and the enormity of this space and the multitude of names lining it underscore the vast scope of the tragedy that took place at this site. Standing there at the water's edge, looking at a pool of water that is flowing away into an abyss, a visitor to the site can sense that what is beyond this curtain of water and ribbon of names is inaccessible.

More at the NYTimes.