Literally in the shadow of One World Trade is a memorial for September 11 that has been overrun by tourists since the days after the disaster. Its quiet dignity has been maintained, outlasting the dozens of hawkers who sold Twin Tower replicas just a few feet away. The memorial bears but one name, "Mary Wife of James Miles," who died on September 11, 1796. Today's New York Observer weighed in on the New York Post's claim that tourists are turning the September 11 Memorial into a glorified playground. "When the construction barriers finally come down, the lines will be gone, people will come and go as they please. They will pray and they will play, and that is how it should be," wrote the Observer's Matt Chaban. As the debate continues as to what constitutes appropriate behavior at the memorial, one need only walk one block east to take in two century's worth of history on how New Yorkers memorialize. Mary Miles's headstone sits in the churchyard of Trinity St. Paul's Chapel, which served as the de facto memorial while the official one was being built. Without overt police supervision the small parish took on the unenviable task of welcoming millions into its historic walls and grounds. Its open gates and churchyard oaks have greeted office workers, picnicking parents, and frolicking children alike. It's a clear example of what one hopes the memorial across the street will become. But the parish has a deep heritage of combining daily life with the act of memorializing. After all, the nation's first official monument, commemorating General Richard Montgomery, fronts the church facade. While churchyard cemeteries were once a familiar sight in American cities, the construction of Paris's Pére Lachaise in 1804 ushered in the era of the rural cemetery. In America, Mount Auburn in Cambridge, Massachusetts opened in 1831, followed by Greenwood in Brooklyn in 1838. The pastoral landscapes acted as some of the country's first landscaped parks, where families often picnicked and played. By virtue of its location in one of the most densely populated area's in the world, the new memorial is anything but rural. But that doesn't preclude the notion of parkland that the memorial has the potential to encompass—even as city life continues amidst it. Decisions surrounding new World Trade Center were the result of a very democratic process, from the thousands of square feet of retail that are planned to abut the memorial below ground, to the swirl of pedestrian traffic above. Just last week, Paul Goldberger told AN, “Democracy is a great thing but it doesn’t always lead to the best architectural decisions.” A lot of voices were at play here. But if the history just one block east portends, when the construction and security barriers finally come down, the carnival atmosphere will dissipate and the memorial will eventually inhabit its rightful, respectful sense of place.
Posts tagged with "Memorials":
It was a week of devastating lows and mild highs for Community Board 2. With NYU virtually assured of getting their 1.9 million-square-foot expansion plan through City Council next week, in spite of vigorous local objection, the mood at last night’s executive board meeting was decidedly grim. But a new design for the AIDS Memorial, to be incorporated into the proposed St. Vincent's Hospital Park across the street from the former hospital site in Greenwich Village, offered some hope. The new design was in response to a demand that the designers incorporate community input, providing hope for some that that the Uniform Land Use Review Procedure (ULURP) was not a waste of time. "With ULURP being ULURP, I didn't think this would happen," Village resident Robert Woodworth said of the memorial designed by Brooklyn-based studio a+i. The vote was nearly eclipsed by a visit from Council Member Margaret Chin who came to explain her position on NYU to the polite but angry crowd. Board Chair David Gruber didn't mince words, telling the Council Member that the vote earlier this week was "monumentally tragic" in its disregard for the community. The frustration with NYU made the memorial's evolution that much more poignant. Community member Steve Ashkenazi drew a direct comparison. "This group has responded to the community," he told the crowd. "It's a beautiful, relevant design." Strange as it may seem, the memorial and NYU do share commonality, both the modest AIDS Memorial and NYU's huge expansion plan bid high in their initial proposals and eventually whittled the scale down after negotiating with the board. Indeed many had thought that a+i's winning design resulting from the ideas competition, sponsored by Architizer and Architectural Record , would be realized as it was presented, encompassing the entirety of the triangular park. But as it tuned out, site-owner Rudin Management had a plan of their own for a much smaller park. Under the banner of the Queer History Alliance, activists rallied media support for an AIDS memorial on the site, even as the board was trying to influence the design underway by Rudin's landscape architect M. Paul Feiedberg. In the process the site for the public park evntually expanded to encompass the entire triangle, with 17,000 square feet set aside for the memorial. The memorial's planted overhead canopy will mimic the angles formed by West 12th meeting Greenwich and is supported in turn by three inverse triangles. Cross beams of planters will run the width of the triangles, holding English Ivy, Virginia Creepers and Honeysuckle. Slats running opposite the planters will hold a galvanized Greenscreen grid, giving the vine a surface to grow on. A large oculus will hover above a reflective water element and granite benches will run along the north and south border. Under foot, carved poetry texts find their way in a series of large intersecting circular pavers. Lighting, planting, and irrigation systems include a detailed plan for maintenance. The memorial's co-founder Chris Tepper told the crowd that the compromise, which led to a much smaller memorial than the winning proposal presented last spring, still meets the group's "policy goals." He promised that he and co-founder Paul Kelterborn would remain committed to raising the $2 million for the memorial as well as $500,000 for a maintenance fund. In a first exclusive look, New York Magazine's Justin Davidson gave the project a thumbs up. With such media savvy, there is little doubt that the the group, now officially called the AIDS Memorial Park, will have trouble raising the funds to build.
In the perennial battle of rads versus trads, Penn professor and former Slate architecture critic Witold Rybczynski often sides with the trads. So it was a bit of a surprise to see Rybczynski take to the op-ed page of the New York Times in defense of Frank Genry's design for the Eisenhower memorial. Genry's design has numerous critics including two of Eisenhower's granddaughters, as well as the usual suspects who think classicism is the only appropriate approach to everything really, especially if it involves patriotism, presidents, or Washington D.C. Rybczynski calls Gehry "our finest living architect" and worries that a design-by-committee approach will undermine the quality of the memorial. Or as Eisenhower might have said, beware of the classicist/reactionary complex.
A decade after the 9/11 attacks, the public will soon be able to visit the site, much of which has been fully transformed into the 9/11 Memorial Plaza. While many were dispirited by the years of revisions to and deviations from the Libeskind master plan (which itself had many detractors), AN's recent visit to the plaza, crowded with workers laboring toward the anniversary opening, revealed a vast, contemplative space that we predict will function well as both a memorial and a public space. Next week AN will take a look at the design and offer a preview of the what the public can expect from the space, but, first, a look at how the highly engineered plaza works. With transit tunnels, mechanical systems, and much of the memorial museum located below the surface, the plaza itself could only be approximately six feet thick. Unlike the original World Trade Center Plaza, which many found to be barren and scorching or windswept, the Memorial Plaza is conceived of as an abstracted forest of Swamp White Oaks surrounding two monumental pools outlining the footprints of the original towers. Designed by Michael Arad and Peter Walker Partners, with Aedas, the plaza will include approximately 400 trees, 215 of which will be in place for the opening. About one third of the plaza has yet to be constructed, while the Santiago Calatrava designed PATH station is being completed. Plaza plantings are arranged in bands, alternating between bands of pavers and bands of trees, grass, and ground cover. This creates both a unifying visual language for the large plaza and a highly rational system for organizing the mechanical and irrigation systems on the site. Between the planting bands, accessible utility corridors house electrical and security equipment. Drainage troughs divide the planting bands from the utility corridors. The whole plaza acts as a vast stormwater collection tray. The plaza is very carefully graded to channel stormwater into the drainage troughs. Rainwater is collected in cisterns below and recirculated in the plaza's drip irrigation system as well as funnelled into the memorial fountain. The trees grow in a lightweight mixture of sand, shale, and worm casings. Growing and installing the plaza's oaks has been a long process. Given the pace of slow construction, the trees, which have been cultivated at a nursery in New Jersey, are much larger now, most standing around 25 feet tall. Trees were hauled onto the site with cranes and then placed in the planting beds with a specially designed lift. Tree roots will spread laterally, filling in the planting bands, and designers believe they will eventually reach 60 to 80 feet in height. The roots are anchored with bracing under the stone pavers. While the PATH station is being completed, the remaining unfinished plaza is still an uncovered construction site, inaccessible to the public. According to Matthew Donham, a partner at Peter Walker, the construction of that portion of the plaza will be even thinner in depth. Aside from an expansion joint, there will be no visible difference between the two sides.
Today, Frances Anderton shares her loving tribute to West Hollywood urban designer and dear friend to the LA design world John Chase. If you wish to share your own, friends and family will gather in West Hollywood for a memorial service this afternoon. Technically it's considered a "celebration of his life." And in that spirit all are encouraged to "dress as if John picked out your outfit." That means bright and cheery, to say the least—no architect's black allowed. We can't wait to see what people choose to wear in his honor. The event takes place from 4pm to 7pm at Fiesta Hall in Weho's Plummer Park at on his beloved Santa Monica Boulevard. UPDATE: Below are a few fashionable pix from the event. The colorful clothes were a perfect tribute that John would have no-doubt loved.
This week, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey (PA) and Santiago Calatrava released renderings of the scaled back World Trade Center Transportation Hub. Gone is the sweeping column-free span, originally envisioned by the Spanish architect known for his expressionistic structures. Tapered columns have been added, which the Port Authority and the architect argue will speed along construction and reduce the amount of steel needed to complete the project. The skylights, which were to bring natural light into the mezzanine, have also been eliminated. This is only the latest compromise at the WTC site. As Alec Appelbaum wrote on October 2, a new report from the PA laid out plans for a revised timeline and simplified construction, including at the hub. When the report was released, the PA pledged to open the memorial in time for the tenth anniversary of the attacks. By Tuesday, Christopher Ward, executive director of the PA, speaking at a City Council hearing, pushed back the schedule for the public opening of the memorial to 2012. Calatrava has often said the new hub would rival Grand Central Terminal as one of New York's grandest public spaces. As his vision has steadily been eroded, it's time to ask if the space will be closer to the underground interior of Pennsylvania Station.
Amid the endless hand wringing about design and planning compromises and the pace of construction at the World Trade Center site, the dedication of the Pentagon Memorial on September 11 offered some solace. A simpler project by far, the Pentagon Memorial still took years longer to complete than expected. “When we got the commission, we took an 18 month lease in Alexandria, Virginia,” said Julie Beckman, one of the memorial’s designers, “but it ended up being a 66 month long project.” Fundraising for the memorial, all which came from private sources, proved challenging, but the architects believe the extra time improved project as built. “It was a blessing in disguise,” she said. Beckman and her partner Keith Kaseman, who together run the Philadelphia-based firm KBAS, used the extra time for research and development. They had initially planned to use a single piece of anodized aluminum for each bench, or “memorial unit,” as they call them. After consulting metallurgical experts at Virginia Tech who questioned the long-term durability of aluminum, they opted for stainless steel above grade and pre-cast concrete below grade. They also tinkered with the gravel base, adding a bit of cement to the mixture, while leaving a thin layer of loose gravel on top. Six concrete paths were added to improve accessibility. Though the project took longer to complete than expected, the end result looks almost identical to their competition-winning design. “I hope 9/11 families everywhere feel welcome to use the memorial for their thoughts and reflections,” Beckman said. For KBAS, the project has left an indelible mark on their practice. Said Beckman, “We want to keep working on projects that have a positive impact on their communities.”