// Last Minute 2nd Designer, what do
// Jurors of park and memorial competitions
// think of this 'winning' strategy?
// we have seen this in India as well, no?
// the WTC project selection processes,
// comments, anyone? what is the word on the
How Winning 9/11 Memorial Acquired Its 2nd Designer
By DAVID W. DUNLAP and GLENN COLLINS
Published: January 8, 2004
hen a proposal called Reflecting Absence was submitted last year to the
World Trade Center memorial site competition, there was one name on it: that
of Michael Arad, a young architect for the New York City Housing Authority.
When Reflecting Absence was announced on Tuesday as the winner of the
six-month competition, there was another name: Peter Walker of Berkeley,
Calif., who has 45 years of experience in the teaching and practice of
Though Mr. Arad attracted the jurors' attention with the concept of great
pool-filled voids where the twin towers stood, it was Mr. Walker's greening
of the surrounding plaza that sealed their choice. The two now share the
design credit and the contract, even though Mr. Walker joined only last
Having survived a winnowing from 5,201 entries to 8 finalists to 3
significantly redesigned favorites, Reflecting Absence wound up as the
choice of most, though not all, of the jurors in a 12-hour meeting on Monday
at Gracie Mansion.
The success of Reflecting Absence - and the ultimate failure of Garden of
Lights and Passages of Light: Memorial Cloud designs - was attributed to
many factors by six people closely connected to the process, who spoke to
reporters on the condition that their names and their affiliations not be
For its part, the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation declined yesterday
to offer any comment on the memorial deliberations. Jurors are forbidden by
their contract with the corporation to speak with journalists until the
process is completed when the final design is made public next week.
Public attention has focused on the possibly persuasive role played by one
juror, Maya Lin, who designed the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington.
She sketched out a proposal for the memorial in The New York Times Magazine
of Sept. 8, 2002, that bears a superficial resemblance to Reflecting
But those who were interviewed said that though Ms. Lin's recent advocacy of
Reflecting Absence was forceful and entirely consistent with her minimalist
design sensibility, no one person could have commandeered the jury.
Instead, they said, Ms. Lin, though committed to the Arad design, was
self-effacing and gave in on many points she had favored. At least four
other jurors made the case for the Arad design aside from Ms. Lin, they
All 13 jurors had strong ideas and opinions, and they were were given ample
opportunity to express them and did so, they said. But they also described
deliberations that were largely collegial, even though sharp differences
persisted through Monday, as Passages of Light remained a contender until
the end. (Garden of Lights, they generally agreed, had suffered so much from
changes that it was no longer as highly regarded, especially after its
creators' presentation to the jury on Monday.)
What mattered most to jurors about Reflecting Absence - the degree depended
somewhat on who was speaking - was the way in which its design spoke more
clearly than other entries to what happened on Sept. 11, 2001: the pancaking
collapse of the twin towers into their own foundations.
By expressing the towers as voids 30 feet deep and almost an acre in extent
exactly where the 110-story buildings stood, jurors believed, the design
would convey the magnitude of the event not only to a generation that will
never forget that day but to future generations that will have to learn.
The sheer size of the voids would also allow visitors to experience
something of the physical dimension of the trade center towers. Jurors were
not unaware, even as they met in secret, of the publicly expressed hunger
for a memorial design specific both to the site and the event.
They were also concerned that Mr. Arad's original concept called for a plaza
around the voids that was too barren and lifeless. They made it clear that a
landscape architect of high caliber would have to be involved in the
project, though they did not specify Mr. Walker.
The development corporation was said to have furnished a list of choices to
Mr. Arad that included Mr. Walker.
Vartan Gregorian, the chairman of the memorial jury, summarized the result
of their collaboration in a brief public statement issued on Tuesday.
"While these voids still remain empty and inconsolable, the surrounding
plaza's design has evolved to include teeming groves of trees, traditional
affirmations of life and rebirth," he said. "The result is a memorial that
expresses both the incalculable loss of life and its regeneration."
The jurors' concern about landscaping began long before the recent
refinements. They conceived their task as finding a design for a memorial
site - not just a memorial - meaning that it had to fit into the surrounding
streets and sidewalks and into the larger context of Lower Manhattan.
That was reflected in the eight finalists announced in November. All turned
their back, in one way or another, on the idea that the entire memorial area
could be depressed 30 feet below street level, which was embodied in Daniel
Libeskind's overall trade center design concept.
Instead, from the very beginning, the jury publicly invited architects to
challenge the site design plan. They said they deliberately issued a direct
invitation to break its boundaries.
The proposals that survived the first winnowing called for ample space at
sidewalk level across the 4.5-acre memorial site, bounded by West and
Liberty Streets and the re-created Fulton and Greenwich Streets.
Some jurors also felt that in its boldness, Reflecting Absence stood a
better chance of serving as a counterpoint to the 1,776-foot Freedom Tower,
across Fulton Street, whose scale was made quite apparent when the jurors
saw a model on Monday night.
Jurors set a threshold of 10 votes for acceptance. Reflecting Absence came
close in the first polling on Monday morning, but Passages of Light had
supporters who appreciated it as a spectacular work of architecture. To its
advocates, the canopy formed by undulating translucent tubes suggested a
cathedral; to its detractors, it suggested a cave.
Garden of Lights, in which the site was to be covered by prairies and apple
orchards, suffered from concerns over its underground "altar" rooms and the
limited access that would be provided across the grounds.
The final vote between Reflecting Absence and Passages of Light was not
unanimously in favor of the concept by Mr. Arad and Mr. Walker, though those
interviewed would not specify what it was.
Besides Dr. Gregorian and Ms. Lin, the jurors are Paula Grant Berry, Susan
K. Freedman, Deputy Mayor Patricia E. Harris, Michael McKeon, Julie Menin,
Enrique Norten, Martin Puryear, Nancy Rosen, Lowery Stokes Sims, Michael Van
Valkenburgh and James E. Young.