World Trade Center Site Memorial Competition - New York

Human death is widely commemorated by physical monuments or with musical events. Our proposal will, with great simplicity, fuse sound, light, architecture and time into a single place of profound memory and inner reflection where the shards of unspeakable tragedy seek transformation into continued life.

The collapse of the World Trade Center created a vast emptiness in the heart of downtown Manhattan. This empty space reflects our inability to comprehend what has happened to us. It is an emptiness filled with silence, which calls us to reflection, to meditation, to homage for the memory of the victims. This empty space invites us to enter, to wander through it, remembering. But at the same time this emptiness is liberating; it frees us to move within it and within our memories: from the emptiness new life takes form.


Our proposal is to respect the imposing vastness of the empty space, to underline the importance of meditation and reflection in the healing process. Our memorial site is divided into different zones, providing spaces for different forms of homage and remembrance . Its floor ( raised five feet above street level, to make room for the music installation ) is paved in basalt stone panels of varying shades, each panel surfaced in a different texture and shaped in an apparently aleatoric pattern. But these widely varying elements are held together in a harmonious system based on the Golden Proportion, so they obey a logical and satisfying structure. As a contrast to the open emptiness we have set aside one enclosed area for contemplation for friends and families of the victims. This creates a zone of stasis, symbol of eternity. The shapes chosen to form the various zones of the memorial are of the simplest possible, and therefore most conducive to contemplation ---sphere, square, line, triangle--- they respect the silence of the space even while they interrupt it with their rhythms and sounds.

The Sphere (program elements 1,2,3)The single enclosed area in the site, The Sphere of Memory, is based on the shape formed by two hands enclosing something precious. The stylized form of two hemi-spheres, made of Cor-Ten steel and fitting into one another protectively, brings together the two ideas of holding and of contemplation in the static silence of the sphere.
Within the sphere formed by the two hands is the space set aside for friends and families to be closer to their lost loved ones. All along the walls of this space runs a four-foot-high ribbon containing all the victims' names, carved into the metal surface. The names of the 1993 victims are also shown, but in raised script letters.
The Square (program elements 5,2)To mark the footprints we have designed a shallow pool of water where each of the missing buildings stood. In each of these twin pools we have placed five square blocks of black granite, corresponding in proportional area to the five continents. They are accessible from the pools' rims by means of stepping stones, 92 in number, in reference to the number of different nationalities of the victims. .These "islands of meditation" symbolize the earth and offer a serene and quiet area for contemplation and for any commemorative events which may be planned. The sculptured topography of their surfaces is highly varied and provides, among other things, sitting support for the visitors. These blocks are arranged to form a square shape in Golden Proportion to the surrounding water, thus creating a harmonious rhythm. Water symbolizes life and hope, and must therefore be alive and in motion at all times: it will be kept warm enough in winter to prevent it freezing. A sheet of glass runs from one continent to the other, facilitating the circulation of visitors. To emphasize the continuum of life, this water will be illuminated at night and remain vibrant and transparent at all hours and in all seasons.
The Triangle (program component 4)This is a recurring form in the Liebeskind constructions: it defines and describes the area of approximately 2,500 square feet dedicated to the Unidentified Victims.
The LineThe line is created by the sound, which will "emerge gradually, , expanding along a straight line which traverses the open space between the two footprints via system of loudspeakers installed every 8 feet in a specially designed trench and piloted by computerized playback system. The aim is to seek a poetic and balanced synthesis between an entire site, its history and physical qualities, and the musical sounds placed within it."
Concept: Every twenty minutes a quiet sustained choral sound lasting 120 seconds will emerge gradually, expanding along a straight line which traverses the open space between the two former foundations of the WTC via a system of loudspeakers installed every 2.5m in a specially designed trench and piloted by a computerized playback system.
These natural-sounding but unnaturally prolonged musical gestures are intended to be audible but non-invasive, magical, and emotionally moving. Each will begin in unison and will evolve into a perfect fifth, then to a minor triad, and finally to a major triad - all the while in constant propagation across the the open space.Toward the middle of each 2-minute event a fragment of solo vocal music of appropriate spiritual quality, borrowed from one of the major world's cultures, will be heard mixed against the primary choral drone. A basic pool of 72 different drones with solos will be created and each day presented in a different order. A computer program in MAX will not only guarantee a clock-perfect production of individual events, but automatically change their order each day.
Technical Parameters: A cement trench, 1.5m wide x 2m deep, partially roofed at ground level by a cement overhang but open over its entire length via a central 50cm wide strip of steel grating, will extend across the open field between the two "footprints." The overhang will protect the loudspeakers as well as making them practically invisible to visitors; furthermore the entire structure will act as a resonating chamber. The pavement will have ample water drainage, and the interior will be accessible for maintainance by a single man-hole or other unobtrusive entrance.The loudspeakers will be very high quality "all-weather" elements, placed under the overhang with their cones facing the floor and the opposite wall. This will diminish the points of sound localization and create a more uniform acoustic flow.