The “Reflecting Absence” memorial, consisting of two reflecting pools and a large grove of trees, was chosen by a 13-member jury of artists, architects and civic and cultural leaders.A design submitted by Michael Arad, a 31-year-old Israeli architect, and San Francisco-based landscape designer Peter Walker, has been chosen for the World Trade Center memorial after an eight-month competition that drew more than 5,000 entries from around the world.
The “Reflecting Absence” memorial, consisting of two reflecting pools and a large grove of trees, was chosen by a 13-member jury of artists, architects and civic and cultural leaders.
A jubilant Arad, a 31-year-old Israeli native who has designed two police stations in his job at the New York City housing authority, said he was surrounded by well-wishers after learning his plan was chosen.
“I am very honored and overwhelmed by the news that the jury has selected my design. I hope that I will be able to honor the memory of all those who perished, and create a place where we may all grieve and find meaning,” said Arad, who is the son of outgoing Hebrew University vice president and former Israel ambassador to the US Moshe Arad . “I will do my best to rise to the enormity of the task at hand. It is with great humility that I regard the challenges that lie ahead, and it is with great hope that I will find the strength and ability to meet them.”
Upon being notified of the decision, Arad called his parents in Jerusalem to tell them the news.
“I’m very proud, happy, and emotionally moved,” Moshe Arad told The Jerusalem Post. “I hope that the significance of this will be appreciated by both Israelis and Americans.”
Arad has been living in the U.S. since finishing his military service in the Israeli Defense Force in 1991. He received a BA from Dartmouth College, and a MA from Georgia Tech’s College of Architecture.
He lives in the East Village in New York City with his wife, Melanie Arad Fitzpatrick, and his newborn son, Nathaniel. Before he took a leave of absence to care for his infant son, Arad was an assistant architect for the New York City Housing Authority. There, he had worked to craft designs for a community policing center in Brooklyn. Prior to joining the city in 2002, he worked as an architect for Kohn Pederson Fox Associates, a Manhattan architecture firm.
Arad, who also has lived in Mexico, received his master’s in architecture from the Georgia Institute of Technology in 1999 before he moved to New York City with his wife, Melanie Arad Fitzpatrick, an attorney with Sullivan & Cromwell LLP, the prestigious Manhattan law firm.
Walker, whose major projects include the redevelopment of the site of the 2000 Summer Olympics in Sydney, was added to the memorial project after Arad submitted his design.
The winning memorial was announced Tuesday by the Lower Manhattan Development Corp., the agency overseeing the rebuilding of the site.
The reflecting pools will mark the “footprints” of the World Trade Center towers. The development group said a revised version of the memorial will be unveiled next week, with significant changes that add trees and greenery around the footprints and expose the slurry wall, the last surviving piece of the trade center.
The design previously had a vast open plaza marked by just a few trees, but will now include “teeming groves of trees, traditional affirmations of life and rebirth,” said jury chairman Vartan Gregorian, of the Carnegie Corporation of New York.
“The result is a memorial that expresses the incalculable loss of life and its regeneration,” Gregorian said.
The development agency also said it is flexible about the grouping of victims’ names at the memorial, a point bitterly fought by rescue workers who want separate recognition for their colleagues.
Dartmouth professor John Wilson, who taught Arad in an architectural design course, noted that Arad’s art “reflected work that was different from other Dartmouth students ? because of his background and exposure.”
“He’d had a broader experience than the other students and he was aware of international trends. He talked about the architecture he had been exposed to,” Wilson told New York Newsday. Wilson added that “Michael had been exposed to a situation in the Middle East where there were a lot of cultural and architectural influences.”
Arad graduated from Dartmouth in 1991, after interrupting his pursuit of an undergraduate degree in order to return to his native Israel to complete military service in the Israeli Defense Forces.
The memorial, considered the long shot of three finalists chosen by the jury in November, will remember all of the victims of the Sept. 11 attack, including those killed at the Pentagon, in Pennsylvania and aboard the hijacked airliners. It also will honor the six people killed in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing.
The memorial will be one of two focal points at the trade center site, along with the 1,776-foot glass skyscraper known as the Freedom Tower. Four other buildings are planned where the trade center once stood.
The two pools in the design would sit 30 feet below street level, connected by an underground passageway and a small alcove where visitors can light candles.
Another Israeli-American architect – Daniel Libeskind – was chosen last year to design the master plan for the 16-acre site. Regarding Arad’s design, Libeskind said,
“I think it’s an idea that is simple, that is bold, that clearly refers to the footprints of the building.”
According to Arad’s proposal, the 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.”